Edinburgh restaurateur Carina Contini tells us about her food loves and hates in our Q&A

The Contini restaurants all serve Scottish produce cooked with Italian flair

What’s your favourite ingredient?

It’d be olive oil – real olive oil. I can’t cook without it.

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Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

Carina Contini Pic:Zoe Barrie

Where do I start? When I’m working at Contini George Street, the team cooks me my breakfast before we open to the public. It’s a delicious start to the day. I also have a wee empire biscuit after lunch service at The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant and, if I manage to get my timing just right, I get a hot homemade roll with whipped butter from the team at Cannonball before dinner service. I’m totally spoiled.

Tell us about your first food memory?

Nonna’s figs. My grandmother would go back to Italy every summer to the same village where my brother now makes the olive oil we use in the restaurants. She’d come back in September laden with a beautiful and full wicker basket. Packed inside were the most beautiful juicy figs from her garden, all of which were layered with the leaves from the same tree. It was so very special.

What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?

We love Edinburgh seafood restaurant Ondine but Covid has created a family of other family-owned restaurants who I really admire and they are all on my list to visit. They include 21212, The Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry and Di Giorgio. We need to get out more so we can try them.

What would be your last supper?

Nothing extravagant. I’d just want home cooking recipes that have been handed down from my Nonna, so I’d go for gnocchi with butter sugo and lots of Parmigiano Reggiano. I would need seconds, so I’m not sure if the first portion would count as my last supper?

Starter or pudding?

Pudding. My waist agrees that it is my favourite course.

Do you have any food hates?

I think that hate is a nasty word but I do hate food fraud and fake food. Provenance and heritage cannot be undervalued.

What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?

I’d invite my father, because I miss him dearly; my husband, because I love him dearly, and my children because they never got to meet their Nonno Johnny. We’d probably have Chinese as my daddy loved spare ribs, as well as prawns in chilli sauce and toffee apples. Or better still we’d all go to Cannonball as I never get to eat in our own restaurant as a family. It would be a real treat.

What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?

I’d go for the Amalfi Coast as well as the West Coast of Scotland. As an Italian Scot these destinations are the best of both worlds. I’m always reminded of the Amalfi Coast as every week our restaurants receive a delivery of lemons which come directly from there. You just can’t beat an Amalfi lemon and their beautiful scent takes me right there.

For more information on the restaurants, see www.contini.com

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