Growing up in New Zealand there was this TV programme which seemed to capture what life was like living in American suburbia, and between the poorer Italian immigrants and the richer white Americans. It made things look rosey there, and showed the great American “diner” cafe with it’s booths and their red vinyl coverings. The booths in themselves became an iconic image which was then copied in cafes worldwide – and most typically by ones selling burgers and ice cream milkshakes – as well as one which has subsequently been copied as a set piece in American sitcoms ever since, such as Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, and others.
That programme was Happy Days, and the character made most famous by it was an Italian American by the name of Arthur Fonzarella, aka “Fonzie” to his friends or simply “The Fonz” to all others. Of course, there was the less charismatic kids too who helped in making it cool to meet and hang out at the diner – such as Ritchie and Potsy, the college kids seeking to be just as cool as The Fonz (but rarely, if ever, succeeding).
It was not just the look and the characters which made this sitcom work, it was the upbeat music from the fifties too – and with Bill Halley and The Comets’ song leading the way as the theme tune, and backed up by Ritchie’s and Potsy’s attempts to gain fame as a high school band.
So it was much to my surprise when I had to head up to Northampton in the UK last Wednesday to discover a little place with this kind of atmosphere, as Northampton was not the sort of place I expected to find anything with the kind of character I like in a cafe. That said, I did kinda like the impressiveness of Northampton’s Guildhall as well as found the fairground, which I suspect is permanently there just off the Main Square, to be kind of cute (or “quaint” as the American tourists would no doubt call it)
The little place is Caffe Morandi, and is not quite “Al’s Diner” – as it has a more local feel to it, mixed in with a hint of Italian to it. The latter is largely thanks to its name and the fact it serves great Lavazza coffee. Also the two ladies behind the counter, Stacey and Chami, helped make it that bit more special by making sure I had everything I needed in terms of the best place to sit and all-round friendliness.
However it was the music which really took me back to those “Happy Days” of my youth, and brought an atmosphere to the place which was as inviting as the smiles on the faces of the ladies themselves. They helped make me feel I could keep coming back to this place any time – just assuming I could find my Fonzie, Richie and Potsy to enjoy it with me (as having a four person table to myself in the window seemed such a shame).
So to get a hint of the kind of atmosphere, here’s an indication of the type of music on their playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC9E7D39F7EE6883E
Indeed, I could almost imagine a karaoke night there with the images from this playlist on display for customers to sing along to.
That said, the food was great too, as I trust the image below indicates with its massive Classic club sandwich with healthy salad on the side.
If I had to head back to Northampton for any reason, I would head here – both for the happy memories it brings back as well as for the good, ample portions of food and large cup of great coffee combined with the smiles and cheery chat from Stacey and Chami. Happy Days indeed! 🙂