King's Birthday Honours 2024: Brothers behind Leeds best loved Italian restaurant Salvo's of Headingley awarded British Empire Medal

Brothers John and Gip Dammone can remember the hot summer of 1976 as they drove around Leeds with their father in a Vauxhall Viva to find a site for the new family restaurant.

That was to be the start of Salvo's of Headingley - named after their late father Salvatore. The brothers retired last year but look back with a smile at decades of "good food, good wine, and a convivial table".

As they are both awarded British Empire Medals (BEM) in the King's Birthday Honours for services to hospitality, they have spoken of their joy.

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John, 64, said: "We are immensely proud, and quite humbled, to achieve this award.

Salvo's Restaurant & Salumeria, brothers Gip and John Dammone.Salvo's Restaurant & Salumeria, brothers Gip and John Dammone.
Salvo's Restaurant & Salumeria, brothers Gip and John Dammone.

"We've been, for 47 years, running a neighbourhood restaurant. We've very much felt a part of this fantastic, vibrant community of Headingley. The proudest thing about Salvo's is the talent and careers that have sprung from this, to working all over the world."

Generations of families have grown up with Salvo's, the brothers said. They know of at least three marriages spurred by the happy coincidence of a communal shared table.

It was 1976 when Salvatore first opened the doors. A family affair, Gip was in the kitchen cooking while John, aged 16 at the time, was washing up and taking orders. Handmade plates were from a potters at Shipley, with great big brown jugs for the wine.

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"Mum made all the pinnies and tablecloths," he said. "We didn't know how busy we were going to be. We opened and people kept on coming. They were queuing out the door..."

Brothers Geppino Dammone (left) and Gianfranco Dammone from Salvo's Restaurant, Leeds who are receiving a BEM (Medal of the Order of the British Empire) for services to Hospitality in the King's Birthday Honours list. John Dammone/PA WireBrothers Geppino Dammone (left) and Gianfranco Dammone from Salvo's Restaurant, Leeds who are receiving a BEM (Medal of the Order of the British Empire) for services to Hospitality in the King's Birthday Honours list. John Dammone/PA Wire
Brothers Geppino Dammone (left) and Gianfranco Dammone from Salvo's Restaurant, Leeds who are receiving a BEM (Medal of the Order of the British Empire) for services to Hospitality in the King's Birthday Honours list. John Dammone/PA Wire

With success came an uncle from Italy to help out and then, in time, Gip's own son, also named Salvo, declaring he too was to become a chef at the age of just 12. The restaurant has been listed in the Good Food Guide since 1984 and was awarded a AA rosette. In 2010, on Gordon Ramsey's Channel 4 show, they were named the best neighbourhood Italian.

Both stepped down from the restaurant last year but can't quite fully retire and continue with mentoring and consultancy, demonstrations and charity work.

Gip, 68, said: "The honour is fantastic, to be recognised this way. I'm proud for my mum and dad who came here in the 50s. I'm very proud, if they were still alive, to say 'we've done it'.

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"We introduced Neapolitan meatballs, we introduced pasta to Leeds. It was very exotic in the 1960s. To know they are looking down on us now, to say they lit a fire…

"We are proud to be Italian, and we are also proud to be Leeds. Just to be recognised, to have been a part of this vibrant food scene in Yorkshire, has been a great joy."

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