Nello's Longest Table

Nello's Longest Table

Tables and friends on the Underway

Topsham, Devon June 15th, 2008 "It was a perfect evening, like a cross between a Sicilian wedding and summer fête gone bonkers; England flinging its knickers in the air!" said our friend Natacha, perfectly summing up the outrageously happy mood of Nello’s Longest Table, our community feast and street party that took place on Sunday evening. It was the highlight of the Topsham Food Festival and some 1500 people sat down at Topsham’s longest table to share meals prepared with local and locally sourced foods in memory of our great friend, Topsham restaurateur Nello Ghezzo, whose crazy idea this originally was.

Though it had been raining throughout the day, during the Slow Food Devon Topsham Market, and as we set up more than 250 tables the length of the town, crowds of volunteers still kept pouring out to lend a hand. The tables, spanning the full length of Topsham’s Fore Street, down on to Topsham Quay, and around to Ferry Road and the Underway, all covered with paper tablecloths, and precisely numbered (what a system, Liz!), were ready by around 4pm. By 5pm, there was an amazing energy as people appeared to busy themselves decorating their tables, in some cases in the most elaborate and outrageous fashion. Barbeques were set up, outdoor cookers put in place, and immense hampers of food and wine were carried into town along with hundreds of chairs - for everyone had purchased a table only, and it was up to all to bring food, drink, friends, family – and chairs.

setting up

Setting up

Every time I popped home, I kept looking at the Met Office radar, and so I had a feeling that we might be lucky. But many were not taking any chances, and had set about erecting gazebos and putting up umbrellas and elaborate awnings, just in case. Clearly a drop or two of rain was not going to stop this very special party!

The Nello’s Longest Table was officially due to start at 6pm, but a technical glitch with the PA system meant that there was no introductory fanfare: everyone just got on with it! And, almost miraculously, the sun came out and it was almost balmy in the collective warmth of both the slanting afternoon sun, and of our community.

What an incredible scene it was! It was around 7pm when we finally made our way up the stairs along the church wall, through the churchyard, down Fore Street, and so down to The Globe where the PA was set up. I have never experienced such a vast party atmosphere! Everyone was there simply to have a great time! After I, Michael Caines, and Liz said a few words, Nello’s Longest Table was officially declared open with a “Buon Appetito” from Nello’s brother Enrico, who had traveled over with his family from near Varese especially to be with us for this important occasion.

Enrico and Anna Ghezzo

Enrico and Anna Ghezzo

Liz then sent the party off in real style with a “Table Wave” that started from Table 1 near the Fire Station, and surged all the way down Fore Street, on to the Quay, and then down Ferry Road, as table after table stood up and thrust their arms in the air joyously.

As we made our way back to our table on the Underway, strolling down Fore Street, on to the Quay, then around Ferry Road, past our house and the Pebblebed Tasting Cellar, it was just wonderful to see everyone so enjoying themselves. We greeted people along the way; paused to have a word, see what they were eating, share a taste or a drop of wine: a slow and fantastic procession that I will never ever forget!

Fore Street by St Margaret's Church

Fore Street by Drakes and the Coop

Of course for many of us the evening was an emotional and moving experience, too, remembering a special friend, still much missed, thinking how much he would have enjoyed the whole party.

To see so much happiness and friendship over the simple sharing of food and wine: this truly is the legacy that Nello left to Topsham.

Once back down on the Underway, we basked in glorious evening sunshine – yes, after the rain, it was actually hot! – and in the warm glow of satisfaction that comes from seeing an event long talked about finally come to fruition. We cooked, we ate, we drank, we laughed; and we shared the company of friends and family.

Meeting with friends, sharing a laugh and a glass of wine

Michael and Bella serving out their crab risotto, ably assisted by Jane

It is amazing how a simple, silly idea, born one very late evening in Nello’s Ristorante over a glass or two (or three or four) of Mario's Barbera, can some years later, with collective energy, imagination and the will of an entire community, actually become reality: Nello’s Longest Table, and my what a long and special table it was.

A huge huge thanks to everyone who helped us to make this unforgettable occasion. We certainly couldn't have done it with you. Topsham rocks!


Related links

Our report about the Topsham Food Festival

Our Nello's Longest Table menu. What was yours? Please email

Ray Girvan has done a brilliant YouTube with a series of pics that show the whole length of Nello's Longest Table from start to end with music by Spinach for Norman.

A report in the Exeter Express & Echo.

Some excellent photos of the Topsham Food Festival and Nello's Longest Table in the Express & Echo.

A report and photographs in the Exmouth Journal

For the full Topsham Food Festival program, visit

For further information contact Liz Hodges at The Globe on (01392) 873471, Marc Millon on (01392) 873778, or email

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Copyright © Marc and Kim Millon 1997-2008