Obituary: Antonio Crolla, restaurateur, 82

Tony Crolla had many interests in his life
Tony Crolla had many interests in his life
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ANTONIO Crolla, a well-known Edinburgh restaurateur and a popular member of the Scottish-Italian community, has died, aged 82.

“Tony” was born in Newhaven, his parents Paolo and Loretta Crolla having immigrated from the remote village of Fontitune outside Picinisco in the Apennine mountains between Rome and Naples

Paolo came to Scotland to help out relatives who had started a food shop in Newhaven, at the foot of the Brae. After Tony was born, the family moved to the Lawnmarket before business success enabled them to get a two-storey house on George IV Bridge.

Young Tony went to St Patrick’s High School and Holy Cross Secondary, where his biggest memory, after Italy aligned itself with Hitler, was seeing his father hauled off to internment on the Isle of Man as an “enemy alien”.

In the heat of the war, the family shop, because it was owned by an Italian, was vandalised – although Tony recalled that most locals were not only apologetic and embarrassed, but supportive.

With the war over, he did his own National Service with the RAF, serving at the Seletar airbase in Singapore in 1948-49. By then, of course, his dad had been freed and was more determined than ever to run a successful and customer-friendly business.

The first family shop – selling mainly fish and chips, and ice cream – was in what is now the colourful office building of the Edinburgh Fringe at 180 High Street.

In 1956, Tony married Dorothy Booth from Leith. They had met at the Portobello open-air swimming pool – he had become a keen diver and water polo player during his National Service.

The Crolla family moved their business a few doors along to 148 High Street, first calling the business the New Restaurant and later the Clamshell, a name chosen by Dorothy.

It is still owned by the family but is now rented out. Tony spent the rest of his working life there until retirement. He was a keen golfer, a member of Prestonfield for some time, but latterly playing mostly on the municipal courses around Edinburgh. He was also a brown belt in karate and a mean opponent at badminton and squash.

He was a familiar face at Scottish-Italian functions in Edinburgh. He also became fluent in Spanish and learned more than passable French, not least to enhance his love of good food and wine.

Otherwise, he loved dancing the tango with Dorothy, making furniture, doing crosswords, watching Westerns, or laughing to Laurel and Hardy, Dave Allen or Tommy Cooper. For crying, he relied on going to Easter Road to watch Hibs.

Antonio Crolla died at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He is survived by his wife Dorothy, sons Guido, Nicholas and Dominic, and grandchildren Lewis, Max, Aurea, Joseph, Mia and Bella.