The Vaccaros in Strabane
Roma Vaccaro on the family behind the Wembley Café
My family name is Vaccaro and our family-run restaurant served the public for 60 years. It became well known in the town of Strabane, in Tyrone and indeed throughout Northern Ireland because so many people passed through the busy market town on the border.
Mr Giovanni, or John as he became known, moved to Ireland in 1919 from Formia in southern Italy, after a short period in the USA. He set up two businesses in Derry, before establishing the Wembley Café in Strabane in 1935. He ran the business with his Donegal born wife, Mary.
The Wembley Café quickly established a reputation for the food it served, and was noted for its fish dishes. People from all over Northern Ireland travelled to enjoy meals there. For many years the cafés run by Italians, the Vaccaro's and the Cassoni's, were the only eating establishments in Strabane.
John Vaccaro had the distinction of being the first Italian Immigrant to Ireland to have a son, Guido, ordained as a priest. Another son, Giovanni, became a doctor. Like many Italians John Vaccaro faced travel restriction during the second World War, and he was interned on the Isle of Man for 10 months. During this time Mrs Vaccaro kept the Strabane eaterie going with the help of her 7 children, Alberto, Giovanni, Guido, Selina, Eunice, Frances and Bernadette.
In 1960, Albert Vaccaro and his Ballymagorry born wife, Mary, took over the business and began to make Italian-style fresh ice-cream, for which the café became noted. Albert Vaccaro would make a special frozen tub of ice-cream to be brought to England for judging in the National and International ice-cream competitions. Despite being at a disadvantage of having to make the ice-cream 2 days before the competition, when the other competitors would have surely made it freshly on the day, the Vaccaro family picked up dozens of Diplomas and awards for their distinctive and delicious ices.
Albert and Mary Vaccaro handed over the Wembley Café to their only son Angelo in 1988. Angelo Vaccaro took this as a chance to update the interior style and cuisine in the café and went about completely refurbishing the establishment. He introduced pizzas fresh from a built in oven, fresh ground roasted coffee from a grinder, 2 group coffee machines and other Italian pasta dishes which had not proved popular in the past.
The old favourite ice-creams and fish dishes still topped the menu, however many customers took to this new style and very soon other eating places in the town of Strabane began serving fresh coffee etc in their own places. Angelo's motto, written on the front of the menu's was 'You have tried the rest, now try the best'.
Angelo died suddenly at the young age of 47 in 1994. He left a young wife Frances and children Keelin, Giovanni, Roma, Arianna, Natalia, Guilio and Vittorio.
Albert and his wife Mary took responsibility again for one more year and finally sold the restaurant in October 1995.
All of the older Vaccaro family generation have now died apart from Bernadette, youngest daughter of John Vaccaro. Angelo Vaccaro's children have mostly left the town of Strabane now, which brings a close to the dynasty that was the Vaccaro Family in the town of Strabane.