Boni family pays tribute to beloved father who 'lived and breathed for ice cream'

He was the man in charge of a city institution that captured the hearts, minds and sweet teeth of an entire generation of Edinburgh locals.

Tributes have paid to Lawrence Boni, former head of the Mr Boni’s ice cream dynasty, who died on Wednesday morning at the age of 87.

For decades, the Mr Boni’s brand was a household name in Edinburgh and had outlets in Gilmore Place, St Mary’s Street and Cockburn Street.

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Lawrence Boni entered the family business in his teens, following the death of his Italian-born father Giuseppe in 1945, and steered it towards great success before handing the reins over to his sons, Stefano and Josef.

According to those who knew him best, the late Mr Boni was entirely devoted to his business.

"My father lived and breathed ice cream,” says Stefano, Mr Boni’s eldest son.

"He was in the business a long time and from such a young age, so every thinking moment revolved around ice cream – and his family of course.”

While ice cream had been sold under the family name for decades, the Mr Boni gelato brand was fully adopted in the late 1970s by Lawrence and his two sons.

Lawrence Boni (right) with his sons, Ricardo, Stefano, and Josef.
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Former owner of legendary Edinburgh ice cream parlour Mr Boni's dies

Lawrence focused on the manufacturing side of the business, with Stefano handling business and marketing, and Josef looking after sales.

Mr Boni’s was known for its wide variety of Italian ices and colossal knickerbocker glories, but also a range of sandwiches and basic hot food.

Stefano with his mother Anita and father, the late Lawrence Boni.

In the 1980s, the Bonis introduced a new idea from America, which would prove extremely popular in the coming years with children and adults of all ages: ice cream cakes.

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Stefano recalls: "My father went to an ice cream convention in the States and saw all these great ideas. One of them was the ice cream birthday cake.

"People of all ages came to Boni’s to celebrate their birthday with us. It was just something that seemed to click.”

When Lawrence stepped down from the Mr Boni’s helm just before the Millennium, Stefano and Josef took over.

However, and despite their best efforts, the future of the Mr Boni’s family empire was rapidly beginning to melt.

New parking restrictions meant Mr Boni’s most loyal customers could no longer stop to enjoy their delicious cones.

Stefano, who is now 61 and living in Australia, made the difficult decision to close their last ice cream parlour in 2002.

He said: "The Council were adamant that the double-yellow lines were going to go right past our building and that’s what killed us. Most people came to us via car, but with the parking restrictions, our customers were getting sacrificed, because they couldn’t stop.”

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In 2017, a restaurant renovation uncovered the original Mr Boni’s signage put up by Stefano’s grandfather in the 1930s, bringing memories flood back for locals.

Stefano added: "It's nice to know that people haven’t forgotten about us. We’ve obviously touched a lot of people and that makes you feel good.

"Closing down Mr Boni’s was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I would’ve liked it to still be there today, but unfortunately that’s not the case.”

Lawrence Boni is survived by his wife Anita, his three sons, Stefano, Ricardo and Josef, 6 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

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