'Perfect gentleman' was face of Imperial Hotel
TRIBUTES have been paid to a 'perfect gentleman' who was the face of The Imperial Hotel during its golden age.
Alessandro de Paulis (pictured) was maitre d'hotel for 40 years. He attended royalty and VIPs who stayed at the hotel which for a time was the only five-star establishment outside of London.
Among them was Prime Minister Edward Heath, Prince Charles and the Forte family.
Mr de Paulis died aged 85 on December 10. His funeral at Our Lady Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Torquay was packed with more than 300 guests. He leaves his wife, Barbara, children Marion, Riccardo and Roberta, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Barbara said: "He was the perfect man. A perfect, caring gentleman who lived for his family and his work."
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Mr de Paulis, known as Alex, was born in Codroipo, northern Italy, in 1924. After he left college, he went into banking but found his passion for hospitality while helping out at his nonna's bistro. He moved to Switzerland to learn French and began work as a waiter at The Imperial in 1954.
He worked briefly at the London Savoy but returned to The Imperial where he was promoted to head waiter and then Maitre d'. He worked at a time when wealthy families would bring an entourage including a chauffeur and nannies for their stay on the Riviera.
The hotel was known for its high quality food and hosted the annual gastronomics festival with chefs from all over the world. He married Barbara, a nurse, in 1960.
Barbara said that Alex was devoted to his job and worked under hotel bosses Harry Murray and Michael Chapman.
Friend John Horwell, who worked alongside Mr de Paulis from 1961 to 1989, said: "He was such a professional and had so much charisma.
"All the trainee managers under Chapman served a five year apprenticeship and as part of that spent a year under Alex's tuition in the restaurant.
"Some of them are now running prestigious hotels around the world."
Mr de Paulis lost his speech after a stroke eight years ago. He took up painting, enjoyed cards and supported Manchester United. He has family in Italy, New Zealand and Dubai.
The family have been inundated with cards and good wishes. Barbara said: "They all say Alex brought that special something to The Imperial that no-one else did. He was very special."