John Gibson: Mamma mia! A new bambino

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There’s a smile on his face for the whole human race. It’s almost like being Philip Contini. And, mamma mia, it is the man himself. Smiling all the way to the pizza we shared at his hub, the institutional Valvona & Crolla in Elm Row.

His ristorante/super deli of repute and inevitably he always has something cooking there. Something on the gas. A busier than usual year ahead, we could say hectic and he’s just winding down from his Hogmanay shindig at the VinCaffe in Multrees Walk, managed by daughter Francesca and a virtual ‘‘annexe’’ of the Elm Row headquarters.

‘‘Hectic could well be the word,’’ says Philip, pictured, “because this is Valvona & Crolla’s 80th anniversary, established on September 8, 1934. We’ve lined up a raft of events, including 16 different shows during the Festival in our theatre at Elm Row.

“We have invited a soprano from Italy in August to perform operatic arias. And in April, Mike Maran will pay special tribute to Dunbar-born John Muir, hardly heard of here, but legendary in the States as creator of its wide open spaces.”

Mr Contini is himself part-legend for his exploits as a singer.

On Hogmanay, with his Be Happy Band at the VinCaffe from 8.30pm to 2am he regaled a sell-out audience with a medley of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Louis Prima.

He is talking about duetting for the first time with various female jazz-influenced singers.

All that and another grandchild well on the way. Smiles Francesca:’’This will be my second and, for sure, my last.’’ Philip and wife Mary are ‘‘absolutely over the moon’’ with the baby due any day now.