Giuseppe Pagani

DRAFT - Pagani's history has come from multiple sources which don't align so well. There is therefore work to do here.


The Man, The Restaurant, The Industrialist, The Politician (1859 - 1939)


As a boy, Giuseppe Pagani, the owner of the Cima-Norma chocolate factory, had a dream: to emigrate to England, make a fortune and relieve his family from the constant economic pressures of the time.


The second of three children of Carlo Pagani and Caterina Bertoni, Giuseppe was born on the morning of April 28, 1859 in the village of Torre, in the Blenio Valley. His father, like others from the Valley, travelled regularly to Milan, where he managed a chocolate factory. He was forced to return to Torre because of the fight for independence from Austrian domination. He married the young Caterina from Lottigna.


Giuseppe’s childhood was quiet and simple in his native town. His education in Acquarossa was modest. Being the only male child, he had a strong desire help his family and admired the well-being others who travelled brought to their loved ones. As a teenager he showed a strong sense of responsibility towards both his family and the community.  He was devoted to the Church and had a passion for work.


He was also a simple but tenacious person of considerable resourcefulness. All these characteristics make him a successful businessman, initially abroad and then in Ticino, a father and owner he was perhaps a little authoritarian but someone the Valley still remembers for his initiatives.


In 1873 he was sent to London, where he worked as a waiter at the Monico restaurant in Piccadilly owned by the Gatti family who had emigrated from the Valley about eleven years earlier to the English capital.  Later, from 1884 he found job at Pagani's restaurant owned by Mario Pagani, his namesake and also from the valley.


Giuseppe sent of his earnings home and as soon as he could he returned home to his family (after the death of his father Carlo in 1879). In that period Giuseppe Pagani “lived only to work” only allowing himself the distraction of reading, which he was passionate about.


When Mario Pagani's health began to wane, he decided to return to Ticino, selling the restaurant to his brother Tebaldo and Giuseppe Pagani. The two men became partners. Despite having the same surname, they were not related, and were known as "cousins". As they both came from the same country and had both started their careers as waiters the bond between them became very strong.


The Pagani’s, of 54 Great Portland Street, was born in 1874 like many other café-restaurants managed by Ticinesi as a shop for desserts, coffee and chocolate. In an adjoining room there were some marble tables surrounded by chairs covered in red velvet where customers could choose between refined pastry chef creations, drink coffee or the much sought after hot chocolate.


Fortunately, the cafe was located near the Academy of Music, and Pagani's soon became a meeting place for personalities from the world of music, especially Italians, after the shows.


Business flourished and, needing space to grow, the partners decided to buy the first floor and the adjoining rooms of the same building. In 1896 Tebaldo left London to return to Ticino and sold his part of the modernized and enlarged restaurant to Carlo Meschini di Magadino. The restaurant developed further to become one of the best in London.


Famous for its elegant bohemian decoration and its refined menu, the restaurant also had a feature that made it unique and particularly appreciated: a private room on the second floor, the Artists Room, frequented by the elite of the time, nobles and show business personalities such as Enrico Caruso, Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, Sarah Bernhardt, Nellie Melba, as well as the prince of the Wales Edward the 7th with his entourage. Often the visitors of the exclusive room were invited to immortalize their passage with a dedication, a sketch or a row of notes written on the upholstery that covered the walls. More than five thousand signatures of famous people were collected.  These were later mounted on panels which are now preserved at the British Museum. They have been the object of admiration in multiple exhibitions, both in England and in Switzerland.


In addition to the Artist's Room, among other private rooms there was also the Masonic Lodge, where the meetings of the Scottish Freemasons were held.


Giuseppe Pagani, who regularly returned to Ticino, married Caterina Pedrazzini, an intelligent and cultured woman who later assisted him with the management of the factory in Torre.


It was in 1903 that he made the final decision to leave the British capital to return to his wife and daughters; Bice, Laura and Ida in his native village. Three more children; Gina, Lina and Pina, were born respectively in 1904, 1906 and 1908.


When Pagani left for Switzerland he transferred his half of the restaurant to his partner Carlo Meschini who became the sole owner of the famous restaurant. The restaurant was damaged by German bombs in September 1941 and Meschini, following numerous difficulties in obtaining permission for its reconstruction, finally closed the doors in 1955. Today the building houses several administrative offices.


At the time of his return, Giuseppe Pagani had reached an enviable economic position however, rather than enjoying the fruits of his work, he decided to make his experience and initiative available to others.


Initially he reorganized the family properties by grouping their resources, especially agricultural ones. He was then called upon by the community to also assist with public affairs. In this role he presided over municipal and parish councils. He also became the mayor of Torre, a position he held from 1903 until his death. He also played the role of witness in the sale and purchase of land which is evidenced in numerous documents and letters as early as 1908. Further, he offered part of his wealth to come to the rescue of the church and financed various repairs and embellishments to the building. Among these, the high altar of the parish church of Torre, a marble work commissioned by Pagani in memory of the eldest and only son Carlo, who died in April of 1900 only one year old. In addition, numerous paintings and the windows of the apse were also subsidized by him.


Not satisfied with the role of benefactor in the village of Torre, he extended his activities further afield. In fact, there are two ventures still linked to its name: the Biasca-Acquarossa railway line which was dismantled in 1973 and the Cima Norma chocolate factory.


The Biasca-Acquarossa railway was important for the development of the Valley. It began in 1905 with the purchase of the concession for the construction and operation of an electrified railway line to connect Biasca to Acquarossa from the Swiss Confederation. The project had until this time encountered numerous obstacles to its execution. He set up a company to which he ceded the acquired rights and became the president of the board of directors.


Works, costing in total CHF 185O282, began in 1908 and the first section was opened on July 7th of 1911. Some of the required capital was collected from Blenian emigres in France, Italy and England leveraging the sense of belonging to their home. The canton of Ticino also provided a subsidy of thirty percent based on a budget of CHF 1200000 and appointed two of its representatives to the board of directors.


A second section planned to join Acquarossa to Olivone by 1915 was not built due to the political and economic situation of the time. The war period and the failure of some Ticino banks provided the main obstacles to the construction.


It was the local traffic and the transport of goods for the Cima-Norma chocolate factory which gave impetus to the railway and allowed its long survival.


Pagani’s second initiative, the Cima-Norma chocolate factory, originated from a disused beer factory, the San Salvatore di Torre Brewery. Right next to it the brothers Rocco, Clemente, Ernesto and Bernardino Cima built the Chocolate Cima in 1904. The brothers returned to Aquila from Nice, were they had become skilled producers and distributors of chocolate on the French Riviera. Due to government measures, they closed their businesses and returned to Ticino. "Cima Frères was the first factory in the Blenio Valley employing two women and seven men.


In 1908 the Soja River overflowed damaged the Cima factory and destroyed the power plant and a part of the road, they purchased the nearby building of the old brewery from Tebaldo Pagani.


The young Cima brothers were faced with increasing economic difficulties and did not have the funds to continue the operating the factory.  Giuseppe Pagani came to their aid. This was not the first time that the Cima turned to him, asking for financial help. Again Pagani accepted their request for help. Unfortunately, the firm continued to make a loss and the Cima brothers found themselves unable to honour their commitments. At this point Giuseppe Pagani intervened and took over the Cima Frères Company on May 19, 1913.