Gaspare Antonio Pietro Gatti, known as Luigi, was born on January 3, 1875 in Montalto Pavese, Italy.

He came to England as a young man, perhaps hoping to emulate the success of his namesake, Carlo Gatti. Carlo is credited with bringing ice cream to the English public before retiring to Switzerland as a millionaire. Today his ice warehouse houses the London Canal Museum.

Whatever the motivation, Luigi Gatti was determined to make his mark on the London restaurant scene. He went from dishwasher to owning and running two restaurants, Gatti’s Adelphi and Gatti’s Strand, in a short time.

He was also taken on to oversee the running of the restaurant at the Ritz and it was from here that he was headhunted to run the À La Carte restaurant on HMS Olympic.

In the meantime Luigi had married an English girl, Edith Kate Cheese, and while living in London they had a son named Vittorio.

By 1912 they were living in Montalto, Harborough Road, Southampton.

The À La Carte Restaurant on the Titanic, or Ritz as it was sometimes known, was bigger than that on the Olympic but equally luxurious. It was exquisitely decorated and furnished in the Louis Seize style.

There was already a saloon for First Class passengers and the meals there were included in the cost of their ticket but the experience of the À La Carte Restaurant was designed to take fine dining to a whole new level and guests had to pay accordingly. This was also a way of combatting the prejudice against dining in public which still lingered among some of the upper classes.

Daily Echo:

There were 68 restaurant staff of which a majority were Italian and French with a few Swiss, Spanish, Germans and English.

The restaurant was run as a concession and all the staff were employed and paid for by Gatti himself.

He had a reputation for demanding high standards from his workers but also giving them his support.

Some of the staff for the Titanic team came from the Olympic and others from the London restaurants but some were recruited directly from Italy.

Daily Echo:

There is the story of Ugo Banfi who, at 24, was too young to be a manager of the restaurant. Gatti created fake documents to get him on board. He wanted Banfi because he could speak seven languages.

Most of the staff gave addresses in London but a few gave addresses in Southampton, mainly in Orchard Place and its immediate vicinity which was where the local Italian community lived.

These may have been boarding houses but also could have been homes of friends and relatives.

Two of the Italians gave their address as Bowling Green House and another, Alfonso Perotti sent a Titanic postcard to his family, asking them to write to him at “Bowling Green Italian House”.

Daily Echo:

Only three of the restaurant staff survived the sinking and two of those were the English female cashiers.

There are many reports that after the collision the staff were herded to their quarters by stewards and kept there. They were not allowed access to the boat decks until it was too late.

The mainly continental workers were in a strange position because they were neither crew nor passengers. Also, this was a time when the empires of Europe were moving inexorably towards war and jingoism and xenophobia were rife.

The only other restaurant worker to survive was the Maître d’, Paul Maugé. He and Pierre Rousseau, the head chef, were allowed to pass by the stewards, possibly because they were wearing civilian clothes.

Maugé saw a half-full boat being lowered close by and risked jumping down six foot. Rousseau refused to join him because “he was too fat”.

Daily Echo:

Gatti was also a victim of the sinking.

Two memorials that can be seen in Southampton are the details of the only Southampton, born and bred, restaurant worker – William Jefferies of Highfield – on a family headstone in the Old Cemetery, and a small memorial plaque on an oak table in St Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Ally Hayes is a tour guide with SeeSouthampton and member of Bevois Mount History.