One of the very first Italian restaurants in Southport, which welcomed some of the UK’s biggest celebrities over the years, is in the process of being transformed into a brand new venue – but many happy memories remain of a much-loved Southport landmark. 

Casa Italia, on the corner of Lord Street and Bold Street, was opened by the Grossi family 45 years ago, in 1978. 

Erasmo and Eileen Grossi and their children Nick, Giovanna and Simon ran the restaurant for a quarter of a century, until 2003. 

It was subsequently run under different ownership until closing its doors for the final time, and has sat empty for several months. 

It leaves Auberge Brasserie on Seabank Road and Pizzeria Mamma Mia on Lord Street as two of Southport’s oldest surviving restaurants. 

The Grossi family

Previously, owned by the Grossi family, Casa Italia welcomed several celebrities over the years including Gary Lineker, Sir Kenny Dalglish, Dave Allen, Andy Gray, Les Dawson, and many more. 

It is set for a new lease of life as a bar and lounge called Casablanca, setting the tone for the new while including a reference back to the past. 

Casablanca is being created by local business owners Luminita Maranda and Radu Ivan who have just celebrated their first anniversary at the Sapori Italian restaurant and bar next door – which many will remember from its days as the Curzon Grill. 

Luminita Maranda said: “There have been several customers asking for suggestions of good places to go for a drink after enjoying their meal with us at Sapori, which had led to us thinking that we should reopen Casa Italia as a pub. 

Owner of Casa Italia restaurant in Southport Erasmo Grossi (left) with golfer Constantino Rocca

“Our new venue is going to provide pub food, such as burgers, tapas, maybe we will do some Sunday roast dinners too.

“We enjoyed spending some time with the Grossi family, who had made such a huge success of Casa Italia for many years. We got a lot of great ideas from speaking with them. We are very grateful for their support.” 

Luminita and Radu are being supported by a family with a rich heritage as restaurateurs in Southport, and beyond. Nick, Giovanna and Simon are still involved in the restaurant and hospitality industry. 

In its heyday, the back of the menu at Casa Italia read like a Who’s Who of the UK’s biggest celebrities, with an ever-growing list of big names who had dined at the popular venue. 

Giovanna Grossi with one of the huge Reggiano Parmesan cheese wheels at Casa Italia restaurant in Southport

The Grossi family were experts at designing their menus in the form of a newspaper. The latest news, written in Italian, would be on the front cover and inside, with a list of celebrity diners who had eaten there on the back. 

Liverpool FC stars Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Ronnie Whelan and Gary Gillespie served as waiting staff to help Casa Italia raise money for charity one night. 

Celebrities the Grossi family welcomed came from the worlds of television, golf, football, snooker, live entertainment, politics, art, acting and more. 

Liverpool FC footballers Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish served as waiters at Casa Italia restaurant in Southport to help raise money for charity

They included: Gary Lineker, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Petula Clarke, Jasper Carrot, Claire Sweeney, Tom O’Connor, Bill Tidy, Paul Bracewell, Bruce Forsyth, Ronnie Corbett, Gary Gillespie, Jamie Redknapp, Alan Shearer, Dave Allen, Andy Gray, Les Dawson, Nicholas Parsons, Graeme Souness, Tommy Smith, Frazer Hines, Kenny Lynch, Mark Lawrenson, Rod, Jane & Freddy, Howard Kendall, Matthew Corbett, Constantino Rocca, Joe Longthorne, Stephen Hendry, Jean Alexander, Stan Boardman, Russ Abbott, Fred Couples, Sam Torrance, Richard Keys, Matthew Banks, Norman Wisdom, Les Dennis, Dustin Gee, Berni Flint, The Chippendales, Ginger McCain, Cleo Laine, The Shadows, Andrew Lancel, Dominic Matteo, John Parrott, Dale Winton, Connie Creighton, Jools Holland, Sandy Lyle, Sergio Garcia, Gary Player, Jim Furyk, Kelly Cates, Paul Dalglish, Joe Royle, Jane McDonald, Steve Heighway, Kenneth Cope, Steven Gerrard, David Lonsdale, Paul Crone, Peter Robinson and Suranne Jones – among many others! 

Casa Italia restaurant on Lord Street in Southport

They rubbed shoulders with many thousands of local families enjoying the very best home-cooked Italian cuisine in the stylish venue. 

In the glory football days of the 1970s 1980s for Merseyside, the Grossi family welcomed Everton and Liverpool stars celebrating the many trophies they won in their golden periods. 

Italy winning the World Cup in 1982 and reaching the final in 1994 were also causes for celebration. 

Golf’s biggest stars would often call in when The Open golf championship was being played at Royal Birkdale, just a couple of miles down the road. 

Erasmo and Eileen Grossi (right) with daughter Giovanna Grossi (second left) and Liverpool star Kenny Dalglish (fourth left) and staff members at Casa italia restaurant on Lord Street in Southport

And Southport Theatre back then attracted some of the biggest stars of the UK, and from abroad. 

Giovanna Grossi said: “We had so many happy days and so many celebrities over the years. “Kenny Dalglish came in celebrating winning the Premiership with Blackburn Rovers in 1995 as well as his many league title wins with Liverpool.

“In the Everton glory days we had Andy Gray, Gary Lineker and others in that time.

“Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish from Liverpool were regulars every week and did so many events for us to help raise money for various charities. 

Restaurateur Erasmo Grossi (left) and Liverpool FC star Kenny Dalglish at Casa Italia restauranton Lord Street in Southport

 “They waited on once with Ronnie Whelan and Gary Gillespie and they even cooked once and Granada TV came to film it.

“Lucy Hansen and Paul and Kelly Dalglish (now Kelly Cates) all worked there as their first part time jobs.

“We used to get all the famous golfers from Gary Player to Sergio Garcia. Constantino Rocca the Italian golfer came in every night when he was here for The Open.

“Stephen Hendry the snooker player came a lot.

 “We had all sorts of stars who were at Southport Theatre – Bruce Forsyth and Kenny Lynch had a big party there one night I remember.

Staff at Casa Italia restaurant on Lord Street in Southport celebrate the venue’s third birthday party in September, 1981. The Grossi family, which owned the restaurant for many years, were joined by cartoonist Bill Tidy (right) to cut the cake.

“There were loads of soap stars from Coronation Street and Emmerdale who came in.” 

Casa Italia was much loved for its fresh, home cooked, authentic Italian food. 

 It was particularly famous for its huge, aged, 70-kilo Reggiano Parmesan cheese wheels, which were imported directly from Italy. 

The family once cut up one of the famous cheeses, sourced from Emilia-Romagna, and sold off pieces and gave all the money to Children In Need. It was a 36 month aged Reggiano Parmesan.

Casa Italia restaurant on Lord Street was founded by Erasmo Grossi in 1978. The building was previously a florist’s shop. 

Erasmo and Eileen grossi with one of their Reggiano parmesan cheese wheels

At the time, Italian food was something of a novelty both in the town and across the UK. 

But Mr Grossi’s huge enthusiasm for his restaurant and his country’s cuisine saw him become a trailblazer for many other restaurant owners to follow. 

In 1997, he was awarded the prestigious Cavalieri della Republic at The Quirinale Palace in Rome by President Scalfaro, the equivalent of a knighthood. 

That wasn’t his only claim to fame – in his younger days he appeared as an extra in the Ben Hur and Cleopatra movies! 

Casabralnca bar and lounge is in the process of being created in the former Casa Italia site on Lord Street in Southport. Photo by Andrew Brown Media

He met wife Eileen in 1964 and they later married and moved to Heaton Moor, where he opened a restaurant with a friend.

In 1978 he realised a dream of owning an Italian restaurant and opened Casa Italia on Lord Street in Southport.

The family created many happy memories over 25 years for thousands of local families.

Now it’s time for Luminita and Radu to forge their own destiny and their own memories at Sapori and at the new Casablanca. 

Play it again, Sam. 


Do you have a story for Stand Up For Southport? Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at:  


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?