Oakdale Road in Nottingham is a wide street that is an extension of Sneinton Dale. It rises with a purpose, as though it leads somewhere. A residential area with some fantastic properties that look out east over the Trent Valley. The road in fact comes to an end on a cliff top overlooking Carlton Station and the railway lines below. Various shops, a couple of pubs and a fine Italian restaurant are spread out along the road.
The area has been popular with generations of Italian migrants, although the only visible sign of this is Navarra shop/restaurant; or the occasional glimpse of Italian Ice Cream vans. The proprietor, Giacinto ‘Jack’ Navarra joined his father in England in 1965, when he was 19 years old. Born in Camporeale Sicily then moving to Rome as a ten year old. His father Pietro worked in construction; working on a new monastery on the outskirts of the city. As a young man, Jack’s options in Rome were the army or the priesthood. Neither appealed to him and with his father making the decision to move to England, he did likewise. Pietro initially worked on a farm near Kettering before being invited to join a Sicilian friend in Nottingham. This friend had already established a shop called ‘La Vostra Bottega’ on St Anns Well Road. The Navarra family, now reunited, settled in a house on Martin Street, St Anns.
Jack had a strong work ethic and soon found employment at a continental food wholesaler in Long Eaton. The proprietor was Franco Tomasello, a former prisoner of war who had stayed after the war and married an English woman. Jack learnt a lot in the two years he worked for Franco. The business operated a number of vans that were franchised as mobile shops. The operators distributed continental foods all over the country. When one named Aldo gave up his van, Jack seized his chance. Now self-employed he began selling Italian produce to people in the Nottingham area. The working days were long and customers were established as far as Retford. Some deliveries were more local. Dane Street in St Anns had at least 20 Italian families alone!
Jack was now establishing himself in Nottingham and, during a day off at Nottingham Castle he met his future wife Joy.
In the early 1970’s, St Anns was re-developed and families began to move to new areas, often to be nearer to work. Many Italians worked at British Celanese in Derby and moved to Bramcote. Jack’s family moved to Rosedale Road Bakersfield. The Navarra’s were committed to the business, Italian food and produce.
The marriage to Joy produced three sons and the family remained in the Bakersfield area.
In the late 1970’s an old fishmongers shop on Oakdale Road became available. The shop ‘Il Tricolore’ was established. Named after the Italian flag of ‘three colours’, Jack now had a base from which to trade. His brother was also established in the restaurant trade, one on Barker Gate was named Don Pietro, after their father who had brought them all to Nottingham.
‘Il Tricolore’ had become a viable business and being sited on a corner had some land at the side. An extension of the property would make an ideal small restaurant to complete the Italian experience. With persistence, permission was granted and a genuine family restaurant was born.
Family loyalty, pride, and Jack’s work ethic continues with the Navarra family. Joy and two of the sons work in the business. The shop name was changed to ‘Navarra’ in order to preserve the name and celebrate nearly 50 years of hard work.
Whilst Jack may be officially a ‘pensioner’ he has no intentions of retiring. He is determined that the day he stops working will coincide with him joining his parents at Wilford Hill Cemetery! He is not joking either. A few years ago he managed to purchase a ‘second hand’ plot there from an Irishman friend who had changed his burial arrangements to the Emerald Isle.
No such plans for ‘Jack’. The Sicilian village he left as a 10 year old suffered a devastating earthquake and has been rebuilt. Nottingham, the city that he describes as a ‘tranquil place’ with ‘good people, good roads and good health care’, will be his resting place. Proud of his origins in Camporeale Sicily but belonging to Nottingham.
Nottingham should acknowledge his achievements on Oakdale Road, the road that looks like it should lead somewhere? Well since the late 1970’s, it has!
As for the restaurant, Trip Advisor will show how well regarded it is by the locals and the visitors that make the trip up Oakdale Road.