The end of an era. A sad goodbye.

ombrerosse4When I first moved into Piazza S. Egidio 14, years and years ago, the storefront downstairs was an old coffee-bar and a latteria, that is, a place where you could get fresh milk every day that was run by a slow-moving, grey-haired man named Umberto. It then became a more chic establishment named Il Mago di Oz (The Wizard of Oz) and then, in 1993, it morphed into Ombre Rosse (Red Shadows, which is the Italian title of the famed John Wayne film the rest of us know as “Stage Coach”). The brainchild of five men  – Piero, Luigi, Roberto, Christian and Antonio –  its wood-panelled walls and bar, its vast selection of wines, beers and whiskies, and its twice-a-month program of live music, quickly turned it into a neighborhood hangout for coffee, drinks and light-lunches. (For a while, it also served an abundant aperitivo menu  – one of the first in the neighborhood to do so – until the owners realized that they were losing money on an offering that was attracting moderate spenders interested only in an inexpensive way to scarf down dinner.)

ombrerosse1In 2001, I moved from the building, but only a block and a half away, which meant I was still having stand-up coffee there several mornings a week or meeting friends for afternoon espressos or evening aperitivi. The  morning regulars included waiters from the Tana dei NoiAntri restaurant next door, officials from the Community of Sant’ Egidio across the piazza, staff from the Rome museum directly opposite, writers, artists and just plain old neighborhood dwellers.

There is little doubt that the premises are going to be home to yet another café or restaurant, having been bought by a group of entrepreneurs who already own four or five eateries in the area but whose sources of financing are said to be unclear. But who knows exactly what they have in mind. In the meantime, they have sacked all the barmen and waiters that we knew and loved so well. So for the moment at least, we all feel as if we’d been orphaned.

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