Glasgow’s Italian food through the generations
- Andrea Pearson
- 3 July 2015
A look at the descendants of original Italian immigrants filling the city with great Italian food
Sweet-toothed Scots appreciated the Italians as soon as they arrived here. In the 1930s the great-grandmother of Giovanna Eusebi, who runs Eusebi Deli in Shettleston, found a way straight to Scots’ hearts. ‘She sold ice-cream in the cinemas. She was a cool chick for her time. She was an entrepreneur and that was quite unusual for a woman,’ Giovanna explains. Her grandfather, picking up the trade in the next generation, made ice-cream and all the family was involved in café life – working long hours.
Key to the west of Scotland’s rapid uptake of Italian food was the immigrant families’ tremendous work ethic. Many had left lives of poverty in Italy, and in coming to Scotland they had the desire to build a better life. Contacts with growers and producers in Italy meant Glasgow could enjoy its first delis selling salamis, cheeses and ‘exotic’ vegetables. Giovanna’s family opened the premises in Shettleston as a little shop selling veg such as peppers and mushrooms, ‘which in those days was a big wow-wee!’ But the Italians’ passion for real food is the key ingredient. Giovanna explains: ‘I was very blessed because my grandparents went back to Italy and lived on a rural farm. They were organic before it was cool. It gave me a benchmark – using the seasons and preserving food. That was all just normal to them. And it is to me too.’
Today, Giovanna’s Eusebi Delicatessen has updated its fare, selling Italian pasta meals to pack up and enjoy at home, along with original imports of ingredients such as Vittorio Cassini olive oil, San Marzano tomatoes and Modena balsamic vinegars. Soon she will be expanding into the West End with a new outlet, and a new chapter in the Eusebi family’s Glasgow story.
Already settled in the West End is chef Mario Pelosi, owner of Sonny and Vito’s deli café, who has also updated his family’s business for the 21st century. His father ran a café and chip shop and his grandfather, always cooking at home, taught him to make pizzas at an early age. ‘That’s where I got my love of food from,’ he explains.
Mario, whose teenage sons now both work in the café alongside him, recognised that in today’s supermarket-led world, running a little Italian deli would be a tough ask. So he has adapted the model. He explains: ‘You have to have a café as well really. So I started making cakes to sell, and now I really love baking. We change the menu a lot but there are some – such as the lemon and coconut tart and the Tunisian chilli and orange polenta cake – we just have to have all the time. Oh, and Italian coffee is at the heart of it all. I always tell my new staff, if you can’t make a good coffee, you can’t stay.’