Donna Margherita: back from the brink?

We’ve written a few times about Donna Margherita, at 183 Lavender Hill – one of our longest serving Neapolitan restaurants with two decades on Lavender Hill, and a firm favourite for years. They made it through the Coronavirus – opening a delicatessen along the way to serve the takeaway trade, with a wide range fo Italian produce. But as the Coronavirus faded and they reverted to being a restaurant disaster struck – with a major fire in the kitchen in April 2021 causing quite substantial damage and leading to immediate closure. Undaunted, and following the usual insurance uncertainty, the owners set about to create something brighter and fresher than what had gone before, with a new look – including bringing light in to the back of the restaurant area, a curved new feature ceiling in sky blue, and a crisper, simpler overall design – while of course keeping the all-important pizza oven at the back of the space.

Things were actually coming on pretty well, to the extent that by September 2021, five mkonths after the fore, we could start seeing what Donna Margherita 2.0 was going to look like; and the builders we spoke to were proud of the way things had progressed. Donna Margherita’s Instagram was clearly showing the enthusiasm too:  “Ciao Amici! We’re still full-on working hard on our Donna Margherita 2.0, works are proceeding great but unfortunately, it might take a few more months before we can safely open our doors.We appreciate every single one of you reaching out and we hope to see you as soon as we open! This is the longest break we took in over 20 years and it will probably be the longest one we’ll take ever, we love our job and making you smile with our food!“.

But then everything stopped.  We hoped it was just a case of struggling to find people to do the finishing touches in a very tight market in the building trades. But weeks turned in to months, and we were unable to detect any signs of activity, or contact anyone involved. Back in May this year, over a year after the fire, our post “Donna Margherita: Is this goodbye?” got a fair bit of attention, and if nothing else it showed that there is strong loyalty to a proper neighbourhood restaurant that has been with us for so long. There were clearly still people hoping that the restaurant could return – but the site remained as in the photo above for many more months. Extended closure is a dangerous place to be for any business, with business rates to pay but no income, no matter how understanding the insurers are, and amid the silence many started to wonder if it was all over for Donna Margherita.

But this may yet be a story with a happy ending. Because work has since resumed. As our photo at the top of the page shows, there are now new fridges and delicatessen displays in place for a kitchen area at the right hand side of the premises, the electrics are fully finished, the floor is polished, even the first seating is in place. It looks like Donna Margherita will be coming back to Lavender Hill after all. It’s been quite a journey for what the owners initially hoped would be an eight week renovation. We’ll make sure everyone is kept posted, and able to give them a warm ‘welcome back’.

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