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18 January 2018


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Bitterne Parker: Alessandro Filipik
Sunday, 15 March 2015 00:00

sandro bitterne parker

Editor's note: Sandro was tragically killed in a cycling incident in May 2016

Alessandro Filipik, or Sandro as he's known, runs Bitterne Park's Italian café Il Picchio. He was born in Buenos Aires. After his mother separated from his father, she brought him and his brother to Italy, where they grew up. He lived in Venice for a number of years, and originally came to England to see a friend in Manchester, where he ended up enrolling to take an English course. Sandro then moved to Southampton for a university place where he took Iberian and Latin American Studies. He opened Il Picchio in 2006 in what was previously Amelie Food Emporium, on the corner of Manor Farm and Bond roads.

The Qs & the As

What's your link with Bitterne Park

I was looking for a place to open a business, and Amelie's café was closing, so I told her I'd take over. That was why I came to Bitterne Park.

What's your earliest memory of the area?

I remember coming down near here and seeing the houseboats, but I don't remember my first visit to Bitterne Park.

How could the area be better?

It would be better if the council did something like they did in Portswood, where they regenerated the area, and then from that I think improvement would follow. I would like to see the Triangle area regenerated, because it's a nice area, so if the council put some effort into doing something, I think it would be much better, and more people would come. I don't know how it happened in Portswood.

What's good – or not so good – about the wider city?

All the open green areas are good, as is what the council is doing to make improvements around Guildhall Square in the 'cultural quarter'; a more vibrant cultural life I think would be good for Southampton. Coming from Manchester I can see a difference, even though it's bigger. But I don't think it's the size of the city: in Italy for example there are small towns where the cultural life seems more active.

sandro bitterne parker outside cafe

What's your passion in life?

Studying and travelling.

How do you put bread on your table?

Working here in the café!

What has your career taught you?

I haven't got a career.

What really gets your goat?

Ah – like the animal? Because they're mad, yes? Nothing, really.

How do you relax?

It's hard work running the café – usually by myself, and it takes a great deal of time. I relax by reading, cycling, or just sitting down not thinking. I don't need much to relax.

Which is your favourite pub?

I don't go to the pub. I used to go to a couple in Manchester – The Crown in Didsbury, south Manchester, which was quite fun. That was in 1990. Here in Southampton now and then I go to The Cowherds, which I like. But I'm not a pub person.

What are you drinking?

I drink coffee: cappuccino in the morning for my breakfast. Then I can drink wine for dinner or lunch. But I don't drink beer. I also like juices.... [we laugh at the level of detail!].

What do you listen to?

I listen to music if I'm here or perhaps at home. But if I'm outside I like the sound of the sea and wind, or other sounds that are around. In the café I play World Music – some Salsa, Bossa nova, some African music, Portuguese music, Spanish... Italian as well. And then I've got music that people have given me as well. And then once someone came to dinner who plays Spanish guitar, and he gave me a CD. So I like classical music, opera.... I listen to a variety of things. I play music in the café for both the customers and myself.

Can you recommend a really good read?

I enjoy Lindsey Davis – she's got this ancient Roman detective, and she was teaching Latin, so she's very knowledgable about ancient Rome. So in the books she gives you an image of how Rome was at that time, and the descriptions are very good. So it teaches you how the councils were elected, how things were done, and the stories as well are quite good. She gives you a lot of knowledge. The books are set about 50AD I think, something like that. This is like light reading.

There's another author I like as well: an American who lives in Venice called Donna Leon. She writes stories about a detective which are good because she gives a very good impression of Venice. I lived there for many years, so when she describes bars, restaurants, or how to reach this or that place that I know, then that's maybe why I like it – because it takes me back to Venice.

What's a great day out?

A day at the beach.

What would you most like to change – in the world and in yourself?

In the world, there are so many things I'd like to change. In myself, I could have more empathy, to understand people better, in order to have better relations with people. But if you want to change things in the world, somehow you have to change yourself. If everyone can change the way they are then things can go better. I think you start from the bottom: if people change, so the world will change.

What's on your 'bucket list'?

Nothing. Whatever comes.

Tell us a joke

Well there's the one about Jesus. Mary and Joseph were in the inn and they tried to find a name for the baby. They said why don't we call him Brian. Oh no, I don't like Brian, said Mary. Why don't we call him Germial? So they went through a few names but they couldn't agree. And at some point, as Joseph was walking, he banged his head on something, and said: “Oh Jesus.” And Mary said, “That's a great name.”

Thanks so much for taking part!

Tune in next time when another Bitterne Parker answers our searching questions. But before then, do you know a Bitterne Parker we really should feature? If so, please nominate them by emailing us using the contact form, and we'll do our best. No promises, mind.

Read about other Bitterne Parkers

As told to Guy Phillips

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