‘Sweet Pizza’ is a heart warming tale from G.R. Gemin which will fill you with joy and leave you as satisfied as if you had eaten the finest Italian meal. It does however come with a warning whatever you do don’t read it on an empty stomach. It tells the story of Joe a Welsh-Italian boy – although he insists he is Italian -Welsh- whose family runs a tatty café which is well past it’s sell by date. Whilst his Mum wants to escape from the burden of the family business Joe is desperate to preserve his family heritage and bring the café back to life. He vows to give the café one last chance and embarks on a series of entrepreneurial ideas to return it to it’s former glory at the heart of his community in Bryn Mawr.
This book is thoroughly uplifting, food for the soul, which left me with a warm glow inside. G.R. Gemin’s rich characterisation produces the most wonderful characters who have these real hidden layers which are slowly unpeeled as the story develops. Through a series of taped recollections from Joe’s Nonno (grandfather) Beppe, we are given a fascinating insight into the lives of Italian immigrants in Wales and their experiences before and during the war. It examines the realities for them and draws a parallel with the attitudes of communities towards a new wave of immigrants in the present time. By referencing real life events it makes the story more compelling and you find yourself wrapped up as the dramatic past of Beppe’s life unfolds throughout the book. I was genuinely shocked by the true life events having never discovered this hidden part of our history, which isn’t commonly known today.
Joe’s passion for his Italian heritage is delightful and the vivid descriptions of food and cooking tantalise all your senses, you can smell the garlic and onions frying and taste the rich, fiery puttanesca. He tries desperately to hold on to his roots wishing he was Joe Morelli instead of Joe Davis. His love for all things Italian leads to his obsession for opera, which provides a brilliant accompaniment as the sound surrounds you, providing the perfect backdrop as you get lost in the story. He captures all the dynamics of all the different communities within Bryn Mawr and highlights the struggle people have to settle into new areas and fitting in without compromising their identities. At the heart of the story we see that people’s humanity and compassion in difficult circumstances is the truly unifying factor that makes us all essentially the same regardless of background or heritage, It is a truly beautiful story or as Joe would describe it as ‘bravissimo’ and ‘buonissimo.’ You will definitely be ‘contentissimo’ after reading this fantastic book.
‘Sweet Pizza’ is due for release on the 2nd June.
A big thank you to Fiona Scoble and Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this book.