North London's Cultural Guide

Public Speaking: Antonio Salvino, deli owner

'Here on Brecknock Road we feel like we’re the last outpost of Kentish Town'

Tony Salvino: ‘Billie Piper swears by our tuna’

If someone had told me when I was starting out that I’d be running this shop over 30 years later, I’d have been frightened. I can’t believe it’s that long since we took the place over from my uncle Salvo. I worked for a year in the Finchley tax office when I left school and then started here. It was a wholesaler of Italian products, and I built it up as a deli with Stafano, my younger brother. I don’t think I’ll ever do anything else.

At the age of 19, my whole life suddenly came to revolve around this area. I’d never been here before, I grew up in Hendon and Crouch End, but the same month I took on the shop, I met my wife on a night out in the West End. Turned out she lived round the corner. It was all new to me, but suddenly I was here all the time.

A classic exterior: Salvino
A classic exterior: Salvino
Here on Brecknock Road we feel like we’re the last outpost of Kentish Town. The area used to be rubbish. It’s changed a lot since we started out. There are some lovely shops now. The other side of the street is Islington, but we still feel we’re Kentishtowners.

Living above my shop, sometimes I can work all day and not even step beyond the front door. I often joke we could install a fireman’s pole from my living room straight down behind the deli counter. That would halve the time it takes me to commute.


I wouldn’t be able to start this business now. 20 years ago the only place you could find specialty Italian goods in the UK was in delis like ours. Nowadays big supermarkets stock everything. So you have to offer something a bit more personal. It really helps to be doing a job which you have a real passion for. That’s something the supermarkets can’t match.

It’s vital to be nice and to be honest with everyone in this game. When you’ve been in the same place as long as we have it’s difficult to be anything else. They all know where to find you! Lots of our customers are our friends too. We aim to give everyone the same treatment that we’d give our very closest people.

The best ciabatta sarnies to go
The best ciabatta sarnies to go
I can’t stand it when local businesses don’t care about their standards. We’re in this together. We’ve seen too many shops close down recently. The used to get snapped up but now they sit empty. The Vegan Festival was great though. It attracted a lot of people to Brecknock and worked well for all of us, from Bumblebee Heath Foods to Third Estate (the vegan shoe shop). We are looking to expand it for next year and close off the road to traffic too.

We’ve got the biggest range of panettone in London. Probably. This Christmas we’ve got over 20 different types in stock. Hazelnut coated ones, chocolate ones, and an amazing Acetaia Reale version. They are makers of fine balsamic vinegar, based just outside Modena, and last year produced a panettone. We’ve doubled our order this year as its fantastic. Not what everyone expects. The vinegar is sweet, rich, moist and fruity.

Billie Piper swears by our tuna. She always grabs six tins and says she won’t buy it anywhere else. We attract our fair share of celebrities. The actress Olivia Williams has been coming here all her life, Bill Nighy drops by on the way home, and Terry Jones comes in every Saturday.

Find Salvino at 47 Brecknock Road N7. Read our review here.

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The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.