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La Margherita in Southampton plunges into liquidation
IT IS recognised as one of Southampton’s most famous restaurants.
Over the past 40 years, La Margherita has built up a reputation as one of the city’s finest eateries, serving up Italian delicacies to A-list stars including Dame Shirley Bassey, The Two Ronnies and Billy Connolly.
But now the popular Town Quay restaurant has been placed into liquidation, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Liquidators Mike Field and Carl Faulds said that negotiations were under way with a prospective purchaser in a bid to save the venue, which remains open for business.
The revelation will come as a shock to regular diners at the restaurant, which has become synonymous with Southampton.
La Margherita opened for the first time in 1973, under the original name of the Cabin Crew cafe, in Commercial Road.
Franco Fantini, a former cruise ship worker, set up the business and Southampton quickly became his home.
It started with just a handful of tables, but the cafe’s reputation grew so rapidly that long queues began to form outside.
As the restaurant became more popular, its name was changed to La Margherita and Franco expanded into the premises next door.
With its location just a stone’s throw from the Mayflower theatre, the restaurant was a firm favourite for pre-theatre dinner or after-show suppers – even for stars like Dame Shirley.
And its standing as an institution in the city was cemented when “Let’s go Margher-eating”
became a popular phrase among residents.
The restaurant moved to Town Quay in 1998 when the area at the top of Commercial Road was earmarked for development.
But it continued to draw big names, with the likes of model Calum Best and boy band JLS appearing in recent years.
Franco died in January 2009, aged 71, leaving the restaurant in the hands of business partner Mr Raftopoulos.
When asked to comment Mr Raftopoulos declined to speak.