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The Italian Job: How the movie industry brought Enzo to Ennis – Clare Echo


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*Enzo D’Auria. 

ENZO is a name synonymous with County Clare – unlikely as that may seem – with no less than five food outlets established here under his name since 1980.

Many Clare romances of the 20th century began at the famous Paddy Con’s Hall in Ennis, now the site of Madden’s Furniture. When a young Italian caterer came to Ireland to work on a movie called Guns in the Heather, the legendary hall worked its magic by pairing him with Ennis woman Nuala Touhy. Even the Italians couldn’t escape the romantic lure of an Irish dancehall.

The very next day, he brought Nuala to Liscannor where they picked up fresh lobster which they later shared at the West County Hotel. Thus, begins the story of Enzo D’Auria and Co Clare.

Nuala and Enzo D’Auria.

Enzo (81) grew up on the famous Amalfi coast in a village called Ravello, near Minori. The family hillside home overlooked the Mediterranean Sea, where Enzo and his eight siblings would pick fresh fruit and vegetables from their garden, later helping his father to sell famous Amalfi lemons at the market in Rome. “We worked hard,” Enzo tells The Clare Echo. The D’Auria family was “very self-contained”, using their own produce and making their own olive oil, wine and salami. His mother was “an amazing cook, she could make a dinner out of nothing”.

“There were nine children in our family. I was in the middle. There were four girls and five boys, I was the oldest boy,” says Enzo of his very typical southern Italian family, his uncle serving as a Monsignor while his first cousin was a Poor Clare.

A love of gardening, growing and food would be a theme that continued through Enzo’s life and at the age of 18 without a word of English, he followed his older sisters to England where he worked in restaurants including La Dolce Vita in the West End, before being taken on by Cine Food, a catering company that worked exclusively on film sets.

For years to come, Enzo would cook for A-listers on some of the most widely known films in the world including Fiddler on the Roof, Ryan’s Daughter, The Catholic Man, the original Black Beauty, The Mackintosh Man, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Dr Zhivago, and The Wickerman. Enzo says despite working alongside stars such as Martin Sheen, Britt Eckland, Donald Sutherland and Diane Cilento, to name a few, he was never starstruck. “It was a good job, I was there to work,” he says deadpan, admitting the only actor to leave a negative impression on him was the “very jealous” Peter Sellers.

It was a movie starring Kurt Russell called Guns In The Heather that would change the course of Enzo’s life forever. Filmed in Co Clare, Enzo would meet his future wife Nuala here in 1968 and the pair were married within a year. “All the townspeople were taking part in it, it was a big deal. The locals all had jobs, driving or whatever, and local businesses were suppliers,” recalls Nuala.

Enzo D’Auria in his polytunnel.

Enzo would continue to work with Cine Foods for the next decade before settling down full-time in Ennis with his family in 1981. Nuala explains, “Trofi and Lianda were born in London, and then he was getting tired of the film game, he was always travelling and he had a dream to open a restaurant or a takeaway so we said we’d try here. We started off in Lahinch and it grew from there.”

The family had five food outlets in total, building their business in Lahinch before expanding into Ennis where they opened locations in Abbey Street, Parnell Street, the Turnpike and O’Connell Street. Enzo was welcomed by the community with open arms. He recalls his first visit into the Halfway House pub and asking for the Italian liqueur Campari. Although Frank White didn’t have it in stock, he made sure it would be in there when Enzo returned for a scoop. It was this warmth that ensured by the time Italia ’90 came around, the Italian was shouting for Ireland when Toto Schillaci cruelly ended Ireland’s World Cup dreams.

Enzo and Nuala have four children, Trofi, Lianda, Olivia and Alfonso along with 12 grandchildren. Alfonzo runs Enzo’s on Parnell Street, Trofi and her husband Paudie run Enzo’s on Abbey Street while Olivia is in Lahinch. Are they doing a good job? “Not as good as Enzo,” laugh Nuala and Trofi in unison.

Italian heritage is of utmost importance to the D’Auria family. Their house is named San Trofimena and within it, the walls are adorned with pictures that serve as a reminder of their heritage. “We brought up an Italian family really,” admits Nuala, explaining how at Christmas they cook fish, meat, pastas and salad and celebrate La Bafana, which is a visit of ‘The Old Woman’ leaving gifts on the night of January 5. Last Saturday morning, Enzo was teaching his grandson to make vegetarian lasagne, and he nods with a smile that Italians “are better cooks than the Irish”.

‘Pappa’ Enzo was forced to retire from work over 20 years ago due to ill-health however today his passions in life are still food, growing fresh produce and gardening. With the help of his grandson Robert and friend, fellow Italian Bill Sorcha, they tend to his greenhouse and polytunnel where kiwis, grapes, nectarines, peaches, tomatoes, lettuce, garlic, courgettes, onions, and berries all grow.

An extraordinary life he led, however it’s an ordinary message Enzo parts with when asked for advice for the next generation of young business people. “You gotta work hard. That’s all”.

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