In Conversation – with Mary Contini

We talk with author and owner of Valvona and Crolla, Edinburgh’s favourite Italian food shop and Caffe Bar.

2nd December 2021 at 19:30 GMT

Image: Ruth Armstrong

Cavaliere Mary Louise Contini OBE, Bsc Edin

Mary is the granddaughter of Italian immigrants who moved to Scotland from Picinisco, Lazio, at the beginning of the last century. Born in 1956, she grew up with her seven brothers and sisters in a house on top of her father’s ice cream and fish and chip shop just outside Edinburgh. She worked in her family business from an early age before studying Biolgical sciences at Edinburgh University.

Mary has been a director of Italian food & wine emporium, Valvona & Crolla Ltd in Edinburgh since 1983. Valvona & Crolla was established by her husband Philip’s grandfather, Alfonso Crolla, in 1934. In 1996 she opened the Valvona & Crolla Caffe Bar, winning many accolades and prizes.

In 1995 she began writing a weekly food column for The Scotsman newspaper and appeared for three years as a guest presenter for STV’s Square Meals, promoting easy, healthy cooking.  In 2000 Mary co-presented Scotland’s Larder with Catherine Brown and Derek Cooper.

An avid campaigner to improve children’s diet and encourage them to cook, Mary, with co-author Pru Irvine.  wrote the best-selling children’s cookery book, Easy Peasy (Ebury Press,1999 ) and .  Easy Peasy Sweetie Pie (Ebury press, 2000). In 2018 the duo wrote a follow-on title, Easy Peasy Real Cooking for Kids, published by Birlinn.

Since then she has written several best-selling books, Dear Francesca – A Cook Book with Love, (Ebury Press, 2002),. Dear Olivia, An Italian journey of Love and Courage (Canongate Press, 2006)  and the third book in the series, Dear Alfonso (Birlinn,2017), tells the story of  Carlo Contini, Mary’s father-in-law, an impoverished Neapolitan who emigrated to Edinburgh after the second world war . 

To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Valvona & Crolla ‘A year at an Italian Table’  (Ebury Press 2009) was published to great reviews. 

Mary continues to write for the Herald Newspaper and the East Lothian Courier and regularly contributes to Radio Scotland. 

In 2010 the Italian Government conferred on Mary the honour of Cavaliere dell’ Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta’ Italiana for her services to Italy and to Italians abroad.

In 2015 Mary was awarded a ‘Life-Time Achievement Award’ by the Scottish Italian association.

In October 2020 Mary was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for “services to the Scottish Food Industry and for Scottish-Italian Relations”.

Based in Edinburgh, first generation Italian Scot Mary is co-owner and Director of the famous delicatessen and wine store Valvona and Crolla. Do have a look at their website and online shop – just click on the image:

This event is free of charge for Members of the Aberdeen Italian Circle or Società Dante Alighieri. For guests we request a donation of £5 per screen, or whatever you can afford, to help us offset our costs. You can donate here:

If you would prefer to send a cheque, the address is here.

You can watch a recording of this event HERE