THE heartbroken wife of one of the city’s best-known restaurateurs, who has died suddenly, has spoken of her family’s tragic ordeal, paying tribute to her “great” husband.
Giorgio Crolla, 44, the owner of Bar Napoli and Grand Cru in the city, passed away after suffering a suspected heart attack.
The food specialist, who spent his life working in the hospitality industry, was also the owner of such well-known eateries as Madogs, Cha- ChaLaca, Quattro Zero and Dario’s.
His death comes just ten months after his brother, Elio Crolla, died from cancer at the age of 49.
Family, friends and colleagues of the businessman, who described Giorgio as a “well-known figure in the city”, told the News they have all been left “shocked” by his sudden passing.
Mr Crolla’s distraught wife, Connie, spoke of her heartbreak, saying she and their three children, Anna, 18, Fabio, 16, and Katia, 11, are struggling to come to terms with their loss.
Mrs Crolla said: “I just don’t understand it, it feels like a bad dream I just can’t wake up from.”
She added: “He was young, so young.”
She recalled the events of last Thursday evening in their West End home, when Giorgio first began to feel pains in his chest, but refused to go to the hospital.
Mrs Crolla said: “At first he thought he just had heartburn. Giorgio said he wasn’t really feeling that well but didn’t want to go to the hospital – he said ‘it’s nothing, it’s fine’.
“He has been bothered with indigestion in the past, so I think he just thought it was that.”
As his condition worsened, Mrs Crolla called an ambulance and paramedics treated her husband at the family home, before he was transferred to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Mrs Crolla said her husband had been “excited” as they were due to fly to New York this week to celebrate her 40th birthday.
“I still can’t get my head around it, he was so excited as we were going to New York to celebrate my birthday,” she said.
“He was such a happy and bubbly man, who had a lot of friends and a lot of customers. He was a great father too – he would always be trying to take the kids as many places as he could.”
Giorgio was the son of Tony and Anna Crolla, who have been working in the hospitality trade for decades.
He grew up on Easter Road, helping out at the Tiffin cafe in his younger years, while he was a pupil at St Mary’s Primary School in Leith.
According to Mrs Crolla, her husband’s parents are devastated after losing their only two sons in the same year, and so soon after one another.
She said: “Life was horrendous enough as Giorgio was still grieving over his brother Elio.
“He was helping out his sister-in-law a lot with his two nephews.
“None of us can believe what has happened – it’s just totally out of the blue.
“Working in the restaurant industry was always his ambition. He never dreamed of doing anything else.”
Staff at all of Mr Crolla’s properties across the city have been left saddened by his death.
Graham Henderson, the manager of Madogs, has worked with the Crolla family for nine years.
On behalf of the staff at the cocktail bar and grill, he said: “Giorgio was a true gentleman.
“He was a larger than life character and his wicked sense of humour could brighten up anybody’s day.”
He added: “He took the time to know his staff personally and would always have a smile for his team, who were made to feel like friends, not employees.
“He was a true professional in the hospitality trade and will be sorely missed by all.”
His employees at Grand Cru also paid tribute to their manager.
They issued a statement saying: “Not only were you our boss, you were also our friend. You will be sadly missed.”
Mrs Crolla has said details of Giorgio’s funeral will be released at the beginning of next week following a post-mortem examination.
She added: “He was an amazing man, who deserves a great tribute.”