Angelo Firpo, an Italian by birth and culture, traveled from Genoa to London and then Calcutta, bringing with him the flavor of Italy in the city of Calcutta. He opened the famous Firpo’s restaurants, a tea room that was the favorite spot for the aristocratic society, a renowned pastry shop, and a popular catering service, which was very much appreciated even by Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy and Governor of India.
Apart from that, it was a happy hunting ground for several Maharajas, the King and Queen of Nepal, Aga Khan and many other important persons of that time. It is said that the Governor-General and his court used to lunch there every Sunday. The cabaret acts were of European standard and the orchestra was a big band, complete with Trumpets, Saxophones, Trombones and all other important musical instruments. The dance floor was of full size, and the only sprung floor in India, giving dancers an extra lift as they quickstepped and Waltzed and Tangoed their way through the nights. Firpo’s did not have any separately priced items in their menu or a la carte menu. They strictly maintained the Table d’hote, or set menu, which means, a menu where multi-course meals with restricted options are charged at a fixed total price – always a five course meal, with perfect options.
Between 1917 and 1960, Firpo Ltd had a band of more than five hundred employees in Calcutta and one of the biggest producers of bread in undivided Bengal. The Lido Room of the Fipo’s used to treat its guests with six cabarets in a single night. Polynesia at the Grand Hotel, the Great Eastern Hotel and Firpo’s, which had dance floors and live bands, were the happy hunting grounds of the affluent society of Calcutta for Christmas lunches and dinners till 1960s. Known as the Queen of Cabaret, Arati Das alias Miss Shefali, was the first Bengali Cabaret dancer, who used to perform in the Lido Room of Firpo’s Hotel during the heady days of the sixties.
But the scenario changed drastically since the early 70s, due to the mass exodus of the Anglo-Indian community and the prevailing turbulent political situation in Calcutta. Business became dull and dry. As if that was not enough, an exorbitant entertainment tax drove out the dance and live music entertainment from all the restaurants on Park Street, excepting only Trincas, and consequently the glamour of the nightlife faded in Calcutta.
In 1977, the owners of Firpo’s Ltd appealed to the local Government to allow them to convert the hotel building into a market. The appeal was turned down. However, after a few years with the change of political power, they mysteriously got the necessary permission from the Left Front Government and Firpo’s Hotel, with its restaurants erased from the entertaining nightlife of Calcutta.