Massarella Fine Art and Tea Rooms, 14 Victoria Road, Saltaire, Tel: (01274) 580129 Ellen Massarella turned what started as a hobby into a thriving business.

A former medical representative, Ellen ran an art gallery below her home in Saltaire, displaying work by local artists.

She ran it at weekends and loved it so much that, four years ago, she made a decision to leave her job and open a coffee shop within the gallery, to allow people to enjoy a cappuccino while browsing the artwork.

“I’d run the gallery as a hobby since 1998 and then decided that it would be more fun to work for myself,” she says. “It would not have sustained itself just as a gallery, and I had always wanted to move into the catering side.”

The venture took off, and the 150-year-old building – which Ellen bought as a “four-storey junk shop” – became a popular meeting place for local people and visitors from across the UK and abroad.

Refurbishment transformed Massarella’s into a stylish café/ gallery, serving home-made fare. A range of soups include carrot and parsnip with orange, ginger and cream, wild mushroom with sherry and sour cream, and leek and potato with Stilton.

A wide choice of paninis includes Yorkshire ham, crispy bacon, three cheeses and tuna. Smoked chicken with mango mayonnaise and Mediterranean feast – mozzarella, tomato and basil – are among the selection of sandwiches.

Ellen prides herself on her tea and coffee. “People say our coffee is lovely, and our tea is served in hand-painted China tea pots with China cups.”

This hand-painted China by Vicky Price features among the many artworks on sale. Work by artists including Paula Dunn, Christina Harris, Steve Simpson and Pete McKee can be bought as well as admired.

Ellen has catering in her blood, having spent a decade of her life living in pubs run by her parents. Her Italian father went on to run a Doncaster-based ice-cream business.

She is passionate about her business, and wants to give people a relaxing, special experience.

“Some of my pet hates when I’m in a café are cheap white crockery, stainless steel tea pots, cheap knives and forks and one-ply serviettes,” she says.

“I love having people come back time and time again saying how much they enjoyed it here.”

Ellen, who lives above the café with her three cats, Snoopy, Bumble and Coco, does not find much time to relax, but when she does, she enjoys driving to the Yorkshire Dales “to eat out, and let someone else serve me”.

Massarella’s is about to take on a new twist with the granting of a licence. Now diners can enjoy the unique atmosphere from Thursday to Sunday evening, when Ellen will be serving a Mediterranean-bistro style dish of the day.

“I’m very excited about it,” she says. “People can come home from work and enjoy some tapas, or have a chilli or lasagne.”