STEPPING inside Lee Pagliarini's Colchester cafe is a home from home.

Specifically Lee's home - thousands of miles away in the Sicilian town of Naro near Palermo.

He welcomes everyone in with the warmth and hospitality you would expect at a friend's home and serves up culinary favourites he mastered when just a small boy - and it is this approach which is earning him quite a favourable reputation in the town.

Cafe Bellissimo opened six months ago, taking over premises on the corner of Wimpole Road and in that time steadily built up a name for itself.

Lee, 58, makes no apology for having high standards in the kitchen, front of house and even for the surrounding area of his cafe.

He sweeps the front at least five times and day and prides himself on the cleanliness of the cafe overall.

"I don't want rubbish and goodness knows what out the front here, why would you go in somewhere that is dirty out the front ? So I sweep at least five times.

Echo: Lee Pagliarini in his cafe, Bellissimo in Wimpole Street, Colchester..

"I want to be a place people really want to return to, a place for families to enjoy themselves but also for people to take away good food too," says Lee.

He feels people have lost their way with the food they are eating and feels there are few places in the town centre and around serving fresh food, cooked from scratch with ingredients bought locally.

"There are no plastic tubs here. Everything is bought fresh from local butchers or producers and I make everything from scratch apart from tinned tomatoes and baked bins.

"I even cook the ham I put in the sandwiches myself and the breads are hand made by a local baker," says Lee.

Italian cuisine has been a way of life for Lee who started cooking proper meals when he was just six-years-old.

Born in France, within months he had moved with his family to Sicily where he lived until he was six and they arrived in South London.

"In sicily food is very much part of the culture, it is a way of life.

"My dad was a chef in a hospital and I cooked my first meal when I was six and since then I have always cooked since then.

"Opening something like this was always my plan and I had worked in hospitality on and off, although when my children were younger I also worked as a diamond cutter in Hatton Garden for a while - you do what you have to do.

Echo: Lee Pagliarini in his cafe, Bellissimo in Wimpole Street, Colchester..

"I went out to Tenerife and just opened a bar when I was a much younger man. I learned as I went but my family were young and we came home after five years to be closer to family," he adds.

But the dream became a reality when Lee finally found a place to set up his cafe ambition.

He has transformed the premises into a little slice of Sicily - combining the terracotta hues of Italian homes with bright blues reminiscent of its clear skies.

A huge amount of thought has gone into making it welcoming and comfortable.

"It is really important to me that it is like that.

"I feel like everyone who comes in here is stepping into my home and that is why I want it to be spotless.

"When I was choosing the cupboards at the front here where I serve coffee I deliberately went for white so you could tell straight away if it got dirty - but it is never dirty."

Lee has pretty much been doing everything himself, arriving as early as 4.30am most days and staying long after the last coffee has been drunk.

He prepares all the food himself, now with the help of a kitchen assistant who amongst other things helps prepare the napoli sauce which forms the basis of some of his most popular dishes.

The menu has been carefully thought out - traditional Italian fare combined with a hint of English in the form of the breakfasts on menu.

But even this has a Mediterranean feel to it with the vine ripened tomatoes prepared with olive oil and garlic.

"I have to do something different here that no-one else is doing and there are some things that work and others that don't.

Echo: Lee Pagliarini in his cafe, Bellissimo in Wimpole Street, Colchester..

"I can't have a full Italian restaurant style menu, I would like to one day, but until then I will put the odd special on when I can.

"The dishes that are hugely popular are the lasagne al forno which I make with six different meats, bechamel sauce, bolognese sauce and lasagne sheets.

"I always use red wine and garlic, in pretty much everything and when you have garlic bread here it is made in the traditional way, by hand.

"I prepare the garlic mixture that we use for that myself, like I do everything else," he says.

Another hugely popular dish is Lee's Pulpetta, a traditonally made meatball which is often eaten with mozzarella, napoli sauce, fresh rocket and served in fresh focaccia bread or a panini.

Rather than compete with cheaply produced domestic cakes Lee imports Italian desserts to the cafe and has a selection of 12 teas and 11 cheeses from across Europe.

His passion is evident - and the word is getting out.

"I have had quite a few people come in recently who only work around the corner yet say they didn't know I was here - and they are then recommending their work mates.

"Some of the mums who are regulars call me Mr Bellissimo when they are talking to their kids which I think is really funny.

"I really think I am doing something special for the community here, I hope that people agree and they seem to because out of 91 Facebook reviews, I have 91 that are positive.

"One lady from Australia even said she had the best cup of coffee she had ever had here - that can't be bad !"