Book review: 'Valvona & Crolla'

Mary Contini, together with husband Philip and daughter Francesca, owns and runs Valvona & Crolla – Scotland’s oldest delicatessen and Italian wine merchant. Founded in 1934, the business grew from humble beginnings to become one of Europe’s finest specialist food shops. In 1996, the family opened VinCaffe – a buzzing restaurant and wine bar in Edinburgh’s city centre which has won several awards and continues to draw in local foodies looking for homely Italian cooking.

Contini’s new book, subtitled ‘A Year at an Italian Table’, takes the reader on a culinary journey through the seasons. You can almost picture the fresh produce changing in the family deli as the months roll on. There are over 200 recipes in total, starting with the comforting flavours of winter which Contini showcases in dishes like pan-roasted quail, creamy chestnut soup and hearty home-made pastas.

To celebrate spring, there are fresh leafy salads and traditional snacks like zucchini fritti and arancini (fried risotto balls). The summer recipes are perfect for sharing – imagine friends and family tucking into antipasto and aperitifs in the garden. There are ideas for porcini mushrooms and rosé veal, while fresh fish and seafood comes into its own with classics like langoustine risotto and grilled squid.

Finally, autumn, with its truffles, venison and roasted squash. The beef in Barolo is a rich and meaty dish, infused with full-bodied red wine and simple herbs. Desserts are equally indulgent, from the ‘French toast’ panettone to the simple but delicious chocolate hazelnut cake.

Valvona & Crolla is a feel-good read, full of beautiful photographs and personal stories imbued with warmth and local knowledge. Contini’s passion for food and family, Italy and Edinburgh, is apparent on every page. You can believe that this is the food she shares with friends and it only seems right to share it with your own.