A new family-run Italian restaurant in Romford has started welcoming customers.

Francesco Madena, 32, opened The Italyans in Romford Shopping Hall last Thursday (February 1), but said business has been slow since.

This comes after Francesco had a health emergency in December 2023, delaying the opening, which he described as a "very difficult time."

But the restaurant owner urged people in Romford to not just walk past the historic shopping hall but to come in and try their food.

"People walking by sometimes don't even know there's a shopping centre inside," he added.

"We hope this is going to work because we've spent so much money."

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Romford Recorder: The Italyans opening event attended by Mayor of Havering Stephanie Nunn (centre)The Italyans opening event attended by Mayor of Havering Stephanie Nunn (centre) (Image: Michelle Petty)

Francesco said that he has put his savings into opening The Italyans, adding that mounting expenses had posed a real challenge.

"It has been horrible," he said. "Unfortunately expenses are so much - we just want people to get to know us."

He said Stephanie Nunn, the Mayor of Havering, came in on February 1 and the restaurant also welcomed actor Danny Dyer and the crew shooting film Marching Powder.

The former EastEnders star had been at the shopping hall to film part of the hooligan-comedy, and was also spotted in Worldwide Signings boxing and memorabilia store.

"We provided food for Danny Dyer all evening," Francesco said. "We made arancini for the crew and offered them drinks."

The Italyans opened on the site of the former McDowell's Pie and Mash shop, which shut last July after more than 40 years in Romford.

Despite the issues Francesco has faced, he reiterated his call for people to get to know him and his family-run business.

“We are very excited to welcome our customers. We want them to know what we are doing here. We want them to feel like a family," he previously said to The Recorder.