Ice cream seller Frankie Fortuna

We have received numerous contributions about Fortuna's ice cream - all very complementary - my regret is that I did not move to Bagshot until after the business closed.
I an endebted to Andrew Smith for this comprehensive history. May10

In 1983 my wife and I with our son had the good fortune (no pun intended) to move next door to Frank Lord his wife Rose (nee Fortuna), and their daughter Theresa.

In 1975 whilst living in Church Road Bagshot, we heard of the Fortuna café and its legendary Ice Cream. A neighbour of ours then was a woman known locally as Nurse Rose. She was well into her nineties, and could remember Queen Victoria visiting her son the Duke of Connaught in Bagshot Park.

As a child Nurse Rose watched the drovers walking cattle from surrounding areas to a Butchers shop and Abattoir at the bottom of Church Road. With other local children she would climb up on the wall and watch the animals being slaughtered. The site later became Frankie Fortuna’s Café where he made his Ice Cream, now No’s 3 & 5 Church Road.

We quickly became friends with Rose & Frank, Rose became one of our son’s favourite babysitters and soon became regarded by him as a second Gran, she really was a special person and we all miss her. Frank is good company - as a young man he was a keen footballer born in Manchester and had trials for Man United he is still a fan.

Living nearby at the time was Jack Parks and his wife Mary (Frankie’s eldest daughter).

Life was never dull with so many Fortuna’s living around us .Summer evenings were often punctuated by wine corks popping and raucous laughter from next door as Rose her sisters Mary and Adelaine with Frank, friends, relatives and anyone else who wanted to join in enjoyed the setting sun on the patio and local gossip.

Sadly first Mary died then Jack died followed by Rose in 2008, Frank still keeps us on our toes and in good spirits.

I showed Frank some of the items on your website about the Fortuna’s and as a result we thought that a brief history of his former in laws was required for posterity.

A short account follows, of a former Italian family their contribution to Bagshot and this country in more than just Ice Cream.

Cassino a town in the province of Ciociaria southern Italy is the ancestral home of both the Fortuna and Vittise families. It was from here in 1892 that both embarked for England they settled in Dedworth near Windsor. Dominic (Frankie) Fortuna and his future wife Carmen Vittise were both then aged two. Italian Ice Cream already featured in the lives of both families and as soon as he was able his father was teaching young Frankie the Fortuna recipes that were to become legendary. Even though the two families were later united by the marriage of Frankie to Carmen the Ice Cream recipes were closely guarded family secrets and rivalry to provide the best remained strong between them.

At the outbreak of the First World War Frankie, Carman and their two eldest children Mary and Joseph (born 1913) returned to Italy. Frankie enlisted with the Italian Army and was seconded as an interpreter to the British army as we were then allies. When the war ended the family returned to England with one addition Floriana (Florie) born in 1915.

When they returned to Windsor the Italian ice cream trade was flourishing, as a result in 1921 possibly to reduce any family friction and to establish his own business Frankie Carman and family moved to Bagshot.

The First Fortuna Café was in the High Street opposite Half Moon Street, in the winter when the Ice Cream trade dropped off Frankie would supplement his income by roasting chestnuts on a Brazier.

During this time two more Fortuna girls had been added to the family Donnata (Rose) and Adelaine. Joseph by now was helping with local Ice Cream rounds pedalling the tricycle with an ice cream box on the front; Frankie would go further afield in his van.

At the outbreak of the Second World War Joseph joined the British Army serving with the Hampshire regiment in the 8th Army (‘Desert Rats’), fighting the Italian and German Armies under Rommel in North Africa.

In 1940 Frankie bought the former butchers shop and Abattoir in Church Road .  The shop was converted into Fortuna’s café.

In 1943 they received the tragic news that Joseph had been killed in Tunisia the Italians had been reinforced by further German troops who had ironically arrived from Italy.

Frankie continued running the café helped by Carmen, his daughters and then later on his son-in-laws. Although Ice Cream was always his speciality and remains what he is remembered for, Carmen and from her thier daughters were good cooks and the Café provided a good income for the family.

Whilst helping Frankie on the van Frank remembers mothers carrying young babies up for Ice Cream, Frankie would break the tip off a cone and make a mini ice cream which he would touch on the babies lips saying “There Fortuna’s Ice Cream is the first you have tasted”, he would then give the mum a few bob as well as the Ice Cream.

Just before his retirement in 1971 Frankie and Carmen brought a bungalow in Bagshot where they intended to live however Carmen died in 1970 and never moved in.  Frankie died in 1977.

Location of the former Fortuna Ice Cream shop

From Bernadette Kirby {May 11}

I am Frankie Fortuna's grandaughter, and it is great to read all the nice remarks made about our icecream. I miss it so much, all the family do.

It is with great sadness that we did not keep the cafe going and continue the tradition of the Italian icecream. The recipe stayed with him unfortunately.  I do remember gold top milk being delivered. Maybe, if the only son, Joe, had not been killed in the war things would be different.

You cannot imagine that as a family we had spaghetti every week with my grandmother telling me not tell my friends!! How life has changed!

The cafe was a real meeting place for villagers and all our family helped out. I worked there at weekends eating all the sweets and washing up! My treat was a scoop of freshly made ice cream.

My Dad Norman helped with the icecream, but mainly entertained the local people with his brilliant guitar playing. My mum Florrie had the amazing voice and sang beautifully in Italian. She died in 1969 just after my brother Joe left to live in Vancouver Canada.

From Teresa Lord [Aug 15] asks about Wickham Cafe

I too am a granddaughter of Frankie Fortuna. I would love to know more about Wickham Cafe, the site I grew up on whilst my grandad made ice cream. Sadly I am about to sell Rosemount. My childhood home where I lived with Rosie and Frank in Waverley Road, as they have both passed away now. I have a memory of an Italian man by the name of Luciano who ran the Hero of Inkerman.

By coincidence Jack has contributed these images from circa 1920. [Oct 15]

Buildings behind a war memorial. Table and chairs set below a wooden framework in a garden setting

 

Graham, a former Bagshot baby has written from Canada, and among other matters said:

We had a very nice Ice-cream man who came from Bagshot.  His name was Mr. Fortuna.  If anyone has any information, I would appreciate an e-mail.

Wendy wrote:

Fortina's Ice Cream was just down from where I lived (in the cottages nearly opposite Laurel Cottage). Fortina's was on the corner of Church Road - all hand made daily (closed on Thursdays).  The family continued in business until the early seventies. {202}

The buildings where Wendy described Fortuna's Ice Cream shop were near-derelict when I moved to Bagshot in 1973.  If I recall correctly, one of them had been a cafe.  They were demolished soon after and a pair of houses built in their place.

Kenneth Wells writes from British Columbia, Canada:

Ah yes Fortuna's ice cream, I grew up at Central House on the High Street, so crossing the A30 we would go over and eat Mr Fortuna's Italian ice cream.  I remember going in to get a cone and can see his distictive face, he looked like the man in the moon. That was good ice cream. It would melt quickly so you had to eat it fast. They also had a pretty daughter who sang in the choir, this was all between 1953/62 231.+407

Dave writes from Sussex

We had ice cream from Mr Fortuna who used to bring his van up to us in Bagshot Park. A big event!

Michael writes from the USA

I was born in Woking in 1944. We lived in Bagshot until 1951. We moved to New York City in December of 1951. I remember Fortuna's ice cream shop very well. My wife and I vacationed in England in 2000. We visited Bagshot; my how the place had changed.

The late Alan Gosden wrote:

I remember Frankie Fortuna vividly, plus other old Bagshot characters. I played in Bagshot Band in 60s.

Mark also remembers Fortuna's Ice Cream

Yes I remember Mr Fortuna and the delicious ice cream with lumps of ice in it. As I lived in College Ride between 1965-1970 and went to school at the secondary modern, it was my halfway stop on the way home. They were still in business in January 1971.

From Colin

Fortuna's Ice cream was wideley recognised as the the finest in this country and everybody waited for the van to come round. Forget about Mr softee and Walls! To my knowledge the recipe is still held by only one person, who, for some reason has decided not to capitlise on it.

It is safe to say that anyone over the age of fortyish remembers it for the taste and texture. The cafe was indeeed at the bottom of Church Road and ceased operation in the late sixties upon the demise of Frankie. The Fortuna family are closely related to the Dinallo family, both of which I believe came over to this country during the war. If Mark would care to contact me I am sure that we would know each other as we were both at school at the same time!

Another reader writes:

Fortina's Ice Cream, no one who tasted it will ever have forgotten it.

I recall going to the shop with my brother with a silver thrupenny bit held tightly in my hand to buy a cornet.

When I was a little older, as a special treat, the icecream cornet could be dipped into melted chocolate and if you were really quick the first taste would combine the still soft chocolate with their delicious icecream. I believe this extravigance cost 6d.

Ron Frost tells us:

I remember Frankie Fortuna. In the 1940's his shop at the juntion of Church Road and the A30 sold wafers and cornets 3 and 6 old pence. The ice cream was delicious, like Cornish. He would cycle around with a tricycle "Stop me and buy one". Fetes were held in a field behind the "Kings Arms" pub in Bagshot square and also a field behind the old Bagshot school, in School Lane off the A30. Fortuna's were always in attendance. Jan06

Teresa agrees : Fortunas ice cream ? Simply the best!, and I remember sitting in their cafe with gorgeous milk shakes!. 7021.Mar07

From Derrick Papworth

Frankie sold Italian ice-cream, being an Italian national, with an Italian family. He was befriended by several Bagshot businessmen in the years before the war, and always gave extra value when serving their families with ice-cream. As a small boy in the mid 1930's, I was occasionally sent up the road to Fortuna's shop with a white pudding basin and a sixpence, and made my way back home with it brimming over with delicious ice-cream. As the outbreak of the Second World War grew closer, it became clear that if Britain and Italy went to war against each other, Frankie and his family would be in trouble. In the event it was Britain and Germany who went to war in September 1939, but when France collapsed in June 1940, Mussolini took the opportunity to join the war on Germany's side. Frankie Fortuna was served with an Internment Order, and appealed to his Bagshot friends for help. It was my father (A.T.W.Papworth, electrical business and High Street Garage) who led the attempt to keep the Fortuna's out of the Internment Camp, handing in a petition signed by many Bagshot notables. Perhaps one of your readers can complete the story... I went to school with one of Frankie's grand-daughters, Joyce Fortune, the name by then having been Anglicised.  Mar06

From Allen D 661

I lived in Yorktown, and remember always looking forward to Fortuna's van coming down the road once a week. Like other's I have a vivid recollection of the unequalled quality, taste and texture of his icec cream. I know he visited Camberley from 1952, and on until at least 1959. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I discovered he had a cafe in Bagshot, curiously enough aftere a visit to Rapley Lake!  Mar06

I recall there being a full-page feature on Fortuna in the Camberley News some time in the 50's or early '60s. I imagine you could get hold of that via their archives. Dec07

Diane Draper (nee Wilson) writes:

I can remember Fortuna's Cafe very well indeed. My very dear friend Teresa was Mr Fortuna's Grandaughter. We watched the delicious ice cream being made out the back in the out house. Such happy days.

Teresa's auntie Mary ran the Cafe for many years. Teresa and her Mum Rose, my Mum and I spent many a happy time at Fortuna's. Teresa always said that if she had been older when the lovely old building was pulled down, she would have bought it and kept it going. I think I am right in saying that the recipe  for the lovely Italian Ice cream died with Pop Fortuna. Truly the best ice cream I have ever tasted. Mar06

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From Robert Allen July 06

I'm sure every body who attended Bagshot junior and secondary school remembers Fortunas ice cream. On our annual sports day Mr Fortuna was always there with his ice cream truck.  Mr Fortunas slogan it read "often licked but never beaten". The days we could not afford ice cream Mrs Fortuna used to sell us for one penny a bag of broken wafers and cornets yum yum.

and Roy Draper  Sep06

I was born at the Avenue, Lightwater, and I can remember Frankie Fortuna coming up our road with his ice cream. His first van was a real old one, I can't remember what make it was but it had a big long bonnet to it, then he went all modern and got a Morris Comercial when they first came on the market, but the one we all liked best was the three wheel icecream cart. I think the man who rode this was a relation of Frankie's, he may have been a Delano.

Ann Roberson (nee Kircher) : Mr Fortuna, the ice cream man, used to come up Bagshot Green on a bicycle with the ice cream in a large carrier on the front of the bike, his icecream was delicious - yellow and creamy. 6118/Sep06.

Ann Sargeant (nee Batchelour) tells us that Mr Fortuna got a lot farther afield than just Bagshot : I used to live in Yorktown (part of Camberley). Mr Fortuna used to bring his ice cream there regularly during the summer. Funnily enough I don't have a memory of him with a van but I do remember him selling his cornets from a cart on the front of his bicycle. He always parked his bike at the corner of The Avenue where it meets London Road. Thus he was close to the children as they left Yorktown school but he also 'caught' the rest of us who were walking home down the London Road from Camberley School and St Tarcisius schools. 688.906

Dave Bridle : I remember on the way home from Windlesham School Mr Fortuna van would stop near the School. It was the best ice cream I have ever tasted. His son told me he never knew the ingredients as his father kept it secret from the family. 6133.Nov06

Lionel Parr recalls that before the business was at Church Road, it was in the High Street, opposite the entrance to Half Moon Street. He doesn't remember when it moved - sometime between 1928 and the war. The Fortuna family knew the Delli Coli [spelling?] family who ran the scrapyard in Half Moon Street. Lionel recalls a Fortuna girl (the Italian spelling) at Bagshot School (sometime between 1929 and 1935). 118.Dec06

From Peter Summerton :

The man who sold the ice cream from the tricycle was NORMAN KIRBY, FRANK FORTUNAS son-in-law. He also played in a dance band trio with Jack [John] Camille on drums and A.N. Other? Norman also gave guitar lessons, Bert Weedon was the man of the moment at that time and Bob Dylan was a few years into the future. BAGSHOT FOOTBALL TEAM invariably refreshed them selves after the game in FORTUNAS CAFE with lots of tea and or an ice cream float, a glass of cola with a large scoop of Franks ice cream on the top!

I was a friend of BOBBY DINALO, I also think the DINALOs and the DELICOLLIs were related to the FORTUNAs. My twin brother and I used to go to Bobby's house on a monday evening, in the early fifties, I think his mum may have been at 'THE W.I.' and listen to "JOURNEY INTO SPACE" This was repeated on BBC RADIO SEVEN earlier this year. HAPPY DAYS!

I met TERESA DELICOLLI, a school friend, in the village a couple of years ago.7068.Oct07

Lynda Eastment (nee Emmett) : My father Russell (Bob) Emmett became a good friend of the Fortunas after he came to Camberley from St Austell, Cornwall. I can remember being taken to visit "Uncle" Frankie and "Aunty" Rose when I was a child and yes, the taste of the ice-cream is still memorable! Dec08

Margaret Taylor (nee Wye) : I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all about the Fortuna's and their delicious ice cream. I can remember Mr Fortuna coming to our road, Broadley Green, Windlesham on a Monday afternoon after we arrived home from school. There was a choice of either pink or white ice cream, and it was quite simply the best ice cream I have ever tasted. It was not the soft whippy kind, but a solid ice cream, and once tasted you never forgot it. I also remember a friend called Linda Delicolli who lived in Thorndown Lane, Windlesham. We left Windlesham in 1960 and moved to West End. Aug10

From Irene Murray : I remember buying the ice-cream in Manor Way in the 50's and early 60's from the Fortuna tricycle. I have yet to taste any ice-cream to compare, apart from some gelati places in Italy....it was the coldest, purest and tastiest of ice-creams....no starch and so on in it; it had to be eaten quickly as it would melt very quickly....those were the days!!  Oct10

From Pat Tedder : I also remember Fortunas icecream. We lived in Windlesham some two miles from Bagshot and Sunday lunch time my brother would cycle to Bagshot to get icecream in a Kilner jar and bring it back for the rest of the family - you wouldn't do that with the modern icecream and as for taste just out of this world. Oct10

From Liz Schultz (nee Berry) : Like others I have very fond memories of ice creams at Fortuna's Cafe - it was a treat on the days my Mum and I went to collect our ration books from St Anne's Parish Hall. [Sept 11]

From Catherine Ellison (nee Mulvaney) : I also well remember Fortuna's ice cream (I used to live just across the main road from there, in Cedar Close). There has never been anything as good as this. I well remember the cafe. Such happy memories. [Aug 12]

From Bob Weller  [Jun 12]

I remember Fortunas beautiful ice cream, I now live in North Devon and the only ice cream coming near to Fortunas is Hockings from Appledore. I remember taking out a basin to the van on Sunday midday to have it with our Sunday dinner as a treat.

When at senior school, after working at Mr Matchams nursery shovelling manure and moving soil and redundant plants in the evening after school, we would park our bikes against the wall of the cafe and buy a well earned ice cream. Frankie always laughed because we were so hot, sweaty and smelly from our hard work, but never threw us out. I remember the fortune telling machine on the wall, I think it was one old penny a go and the arrowspun round and landed on a coloured space with your future details printed on it.

I remember Bernadette and her family as I lived next door and we would hear Joe on his drums, Norman on his guitar and Florrie singing, they would probably get an ASBO now, but I think my interest in guitar music was spawned through the regular practice sessions.  I also remember Bernadette, Joe and friends or relatives as kids holding impromptu concerts in the back garden on summer evenings.

Where I live now in North Devon reminds me very much of the old Bagshot I remember as a kid, where we knew nearly everyone, and their business and people had time to chat in the local shops, times were hard but we all seemed happy with so much less.

I'll take my rose coloured spectacles off now and maybe post some more info in the future to share with anyone who is interested.

From Ian [Oct 12]

Frankie Fortuna was real character. He would spoon a huge amount of icecream onto the cone and slowly, ever so slowly, scrape it off until it was the size of a golf ball.

I think I was in the same class as Bob Weller, along with Derrick Savage, Michael Stanbrook and Geoff Bates.

From Kim [Dec 12]

My parents knew the Fortuna family well and said that I was made of Fortuna's ice cream, because when my Mother was pregnant with me she craved Fortuna's ice cream and the Fortuna's made sure that she had this at any time, night or day. Many was the time my Father went to the Fortuna's in the early hours of the morning and Frankie would give him a huge bowl of ice cream, my Mother ate the ice cream and returned the bowl the next day. The Fortuna's never asked for payment because my Mother had lost a child previously and this demonstrates their kindness and generosity. As a little child my parents took me to Fortuna's and the Fortuna's treated me to ice cream. When my Father's Mother visited from Salisbury the first thing she asked for was Fortuna's ice cream and my Dad would go and fetch a bowl for her, the ice cream would be eaten and the bowl washed and returned to the shop. My parents and I knew the family well and they were all genuinely kind. I have never tasted better ice cream to this day, viva Fortuna's !

From Don Bradbury [Oct 12]

I was a lad in Bagshot during the last war, and lived next door to the Fortunas Cafe at The Hero of Inkerman with my grand parents,Mr. & Mrs C.A.Canner . We had few treats those days; "there was a war on", (remember?) and things were rationed. We were told that Mr Fortuna's Ice Cream was really "cold custard" - but what superb "cold custard"  I, too, remember Fortuna's (penny-a-go) Wheel of Fortune, but never really caught on to it's play on the word "fortune".

From Simon Whiteley [Jun 13]

I lived in the Avenue, Lightwater, and went to Bagshot secondary school in the 50's . I used to go in the cafe and get ice cream then have to walk home because it was our bus fare that we spent on it. I also remember going out with a bowl and getting ice cream from his trike and later his van .

From Groggy [Dec 15]

Mr.Fortuna definitely went farther than Bagshot and it's surrounding locale. I was a nipper in Sunninghill in the 60's and his Morris van used to come around on a Saturday evening if I remember correctly. Fantastic ice cream never bettered.

Can you can add anything about Frankie Fortuna and his ice cream?


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