This is the story of the Avventurieri...the Adventurers, which serves as an accurate and picturesque description of the first Italian emigrants who settled in South Wales towards the end of the last century and started the cafés without which no township in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire is now complete.
(Jack Parker, ‘The Adventurers’, South Wales Echo, Monday, April 19, 1959)
Frank Berni was born in his ancestral village of Bardi in the Apennines on October 30 1903. He remained in Italy until his education was completed, before setting off to join his father's business in Wales in the early 1920s. The Bernifamily had once run a menagerie in Paris, but the animals were eaten during the siege of 1870. Frank's grandfather set off to find new fortune in the prosperous mining valleys of South Wales, where he built up a chain of cafes known as "temperance bars".
This grew to 48 outlets, but during the First World War many cafe managers were called home to Italy for military service, and trade dwindled. By 1929, when depression was afflicting the valleys, the family decided to move to the West Country to make a new start. When their mother died, Frank and Aldo invested their £300 inheritance in a cafe in Exeter, and by the Second World War had branched out to Plymouth and Bristol.