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Mary Contini grew up in East Lothian above her family's Italian cafe. She is the bestselling author of numerous books about Italian life and cooking, including Dear Francesca, Dear Olivia, Valvona & Crolla: A Year at an Italian Table and The Italian Sausage Bible. She is a Director of Valvona & Crolla, the renowned Edinburgh delicatessen, restaurant and cookery school.
This is the story of the author’s father-in-law, Carlo Contini, and her father, Alfonso, but predominantly it is Carlo’s story. Born into a large Italian family living just outside Naples, we are told of his poverty stricken but mostly happy childhood, then the horrible deprivations of the war and on into peace where Carlo joins the police special forces. He’s sent by his employers to Edinburgh to learn English. Interspersing his story is that of a Scottish based Italian community in East Lothian. While in Edinburgh Carlo meets Olivia, the daughter of an Italian delicatessen owner and they fall in love. Olivia’s brother, Vittorio, is despatched to Italy to check on Carlo’s family where we learn of some deep-buried secret but it is not revealed to Vittorio and so the wedding is able to take place. Carlo remains in Edinburgh and helps build the family business which flourishes today as Valvona and Crolla, a renowned delicatessen, restaurant and wine merchant. The warmth and charm of these Italian families radiates from the pages. The author has a light touch, neither maudlin nor sentimental which makes for a delightful book with the added bonus of a smattering of mouth-watering Italian recipes. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
`This is how I was born. At 7.30 a.m. at the Istituto Annunziata in Napoli on 1 May 1925...' So begins a manuscript, handwritten by Carlo Contini, which lay forgotten and unread for years. The scrawling script unfolds an incredible tale of poverty, adventure and survival which Carlo had not shared with his family during his life time, but left as a moving and extraordinary legacy for them. Inspired by this document, Carlo's daughter-in-law, Mary Contini, relates in her inimitable style the story of Carlo's life from wartime Pozzuoli, near Naples, and Genoa, and eventually to Edinburgh, where he arrived in 1952 on a three-month visa to learn English. Here his life was to change forever when he met Olivia Crolla and married into her family business, the delicatessen Valvona & Crolla. His experiences and background were a key part of the development of that fledgling business. Heart-warming, moving and filled with laughter and love, Dear Alfonso is a wonderful celebration of food, family and friendship.
Mary Contini and Pru Irvine provide over 60 recipes guaranteed to tickle the tastebuds, featuring a huge range of recipes, including a selection from other countries, not just Britain. Including clear instructions and information about the basics of cooking and utensils, as well as safety in the kitchen, these recipes are designed for children to cook with an adult. But once they have gained confidence and experience, kids will be able to cook many of them confidently on their own. From Cheesy Easy Peasy Pasta, Tooty Fruity Chicken Curry and Moorish Carrot Salad to Portobello Burgers, Scrumptious Slappleberry and Spanish Omelette, this is a fun and informative approach to cooking.
In this fascinating follow-up to the highly successful Dear Francesca, Mary Contini writes to her other daughter, Olivia, to tell the story of her great-grandparents, the humble Italian shepherds who emigrated to Edinburgh and then helped to transform Britain's food culture. Sharing some of the recipes that they brought over, the tomatoes, the garlic, the sausage, the wine, this is a mouthwatering memoir of family and food. It is also a brilliant evocation of life between the wars, a triumphant story of survival against all the odds, that captures the sights and smells of Italian life and culture, at home and abroad.
Written by leading cookery author Mary Contini, this delightful narrative is in the bestselling tradition of Anthony Bourdain and Annie Hawes. It tells the tale of the Di Ciacca family, tracing their journey from the barren Abruzzi mountains to the chilly streets of post-war Edinburgh. Addressing her daughter Francesca as she embarks on independent life, this is a compelling, often moving, family history in which Contini describes her ancestors' loves and lives in their adopted homeland where traditions were kept alive around the dinner table. With characters as colourful as in any novel, this is a book that will appeal to anyone who loves Italian food and wishes to share in a sense of family. It adds up to one of the most original books for food lovers in recent years, blending great narrative with heartwarming recipes and recollections.