Morellis in Portrush and Portstewart are iconic Italian-owned ice cream parlours and cafes, established by the family of Giuseppe Morelli who came to Ireland around 1907, and set up a small cafe in Ballymena.
His brother Peter joined him in 1911 and helped in the Ballymena café before moving North to Coleraine where he set up a café in Stone Row where he sold fish and chips, ice cream, confectionery and tobacco as well as running a taxi service from the premises. In 1914 Peter and his wife Anne opened ‘The Ice Palace’ in Portstewart and in 1925 their nephew Angelo came from Italy and worked in the business.
1928 saw Angelo turn 21 and persuade Peter to sell him the “The Ice Palace” in Portstewart. In 1931 Angelo returned to Italy and married Anastasia Cassoni. They returned to Portstewart and had three sons, Nino, Corrado & Guido, the older two being sent back to Italy in 1939 to learn Italian.
Sadly at the start of World War 2, Angelo, like all natural born Italians was interned; in his case on the Isle of Man. He returned home after the war but the family was unable to trace their two sons in Italy.
It turned out that the boys had been placed in a missing persons camp in Aversa, close to Naples where they would stay for a short time. By an amazing twist of fate, the commander of that camp was a Mr. William Irwin Cunningham, a former Town Clerk of Portstewart. He recognised their names on the register and sent for them, told the boys not to worry and arranged for their safe return to Portstewart.
After 6 long years, the family would at last be reunited. In the post war years, as the economy became stronger Peter Morelli retired and Angelo had taken control of the shop in Stone Row Coleraine as well as opening a new shop in Portrush called the ‘Shamrock Corner’. This shop was later renamed ‘The Savoy’ but was, perhaps, better known in Portrush as Morelli’s Corner. The three shops passed to their sons when Angelo and Anastasia retired.
The cafes in Portrush & Portstewart are still owned by branches of the Morelli family, and are popular destinations for tourists and locals alike. The Morelli’s Ice Cream business based in Coleraine sells their product to shops and cafes across Ireland and the United Kingdom.