world : My family chippy has been serving food since 1875

Wednesday 12 June 2024 10:51 PM

Nafeza 2 world - Image caption,

Enrico Corvi manages the Val d'Oro which was opened by his grandfather

Katy Scott

BBC Scotland reporter

Glasgow's oldest chippy has fed thousands of customers in its 149-year history - including a former Beatle.

The Beltrami family opened the Swiss Restaurant on Glasgow Cross, where the city centre meets the east end, in 1875.

It was then acquired by the Corvi family in 1938 and renamed the Val d'Oro.

Enrico Corvi, 65, who runs the shop said: "It's been a way of life for us since we were kids.

"I've done 58 years behind the counter."

The walls of the old fashioned chippy showcase the family's heritage and how the area has gradually changed over the decades.

val d'oro
Image caption,

The Val d'Oro chip shop neighbours the historic Tolbooth bar on London Road

For many years, it was managed by Luigi Corvi - an experienced tenor known for serenading Celtic fans with Italian opera before matches at Parkhead.

His performances eventually led to an invitation to sing before the Queen at the Scottish Parliament's opening in 2011.

His brother Enrico, a trained theatre actor who attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London, took over in recent years with the help of his son, Gianluca.

Glasgow Cross was formerly the hub of the city, with High Street running down the centre.

"There was no lack of restaurants or small businesses at the cross," said Enrico.

"It was crammed between Saltmarket, London Road, Gallowgate, High Street and Trongate - it was very busy, there were hundreds of businesses.

"If my grandfather had come over to Scotland even 40 years before I think he still would’ve made his fortune around here."

'Rough and ready'

Peter Corvi, who died in 1992, first came to Scotland from Tuscany in Italy in the 1930s.

But he was put off by his job washing dishes in Dundee and returned home.

However his brother, Berty, persuaded him to return to the country, where he himself had found success in opening an ice cream van in Bo'ness, Falkirk.

Peter took his advice and opened an ice cream van to compete with his brother.

Soon he made the move to Glasgow where he went on to open a series of chip shops, including the Coronation and the Tivali.

But the Val d'Oro is the only shop still in the family and is one of the oldest chippies in Scotland.

val d'oro
Image caption,

Generations of Glaswegians have sat at the colourful Val d'Oro booths

Enrico said the chippy even stayed open during wartime, as bombs threatened the city.

He recalled: "My grandfather could barely speak English and he was one of the very few that wasn't interned.

"Because this area was so rough and ready, the police wanted to keep my grandfather there because he knew that he could handle them."

He said that one bomb was dropped in Glasgow Green and threw up a cordite haze, which settled on the streets.

"When it settles, you can't see anything unless you go underneath the haze," he said.

"It sits at a certain level. People were ducking underneath the haze and going into the Val d'Oro and asking 'can you give me ten fags Louis?'"

'It was buzzing'

Enrico said the area was "rough" at the height of the Val d'Oro's popularity but it has improved in recent years.

"My dad was good at fighting and you needed to be a fighter to have a shop around here," he added.

The shop reached its peak in the 60s and 70s, when the restaurant would be bursting with life and full until closing time at midnight.

Enrico said: "You didn't have the in-house entertainment that you have today.

"People had to come out - and that's what made the atmosphere in here.

"People would come out at night and it would be buzzing in here and out on the pavement."

val d'oro
Image caption,

The shop walls display family memorabilia and pictures of Glasgow during the 20th Century

But Enrico said things started to change for the shop once people started moving out of the city centre.

"When they built the new towns nearby the city, they all became the satellites of Glasgow and drew down the population of the city, even to the present day.

"There is a trickle back into the city centre, but not what it was in those days when it was so busy."

The shop has seen some famous faces over the years, including Paul and Linda McCartney in 1973.

"He did a U-turn outside in the jeep, parked up, came in and asked for two fish suppers," Enrico said.

"They were on their way up to their farm on the Mull of Kintyre."

Enrico said other famous customers included Jack Mulroy, Larry Marshall, Jimmy Logan, Marti Pellow and Frankie Boyle.

"We've had illustrious customers, but the main one is the great Glasgow public," he said. "We still get people coming in that were coming in 60 years ago.

"Some of them had their first date in the Val d'Oro and a lot of our customers were brought up with us. We knew all the families.

"But it's a world away from what it was as a living, breathing part of the community.

"A lot of these bonafide Glasgow customers aren't around here anymore."

Enrico remains an optimist and added: "With a bit of investment and a bit of thought, you can turn the clock back on this shop."

Despite the financial challenges the Val d'Oro faced during the Covid pandemic and cost of living crisis, Enrico still has high hopes of the future.

"We're a fundamental part of the city," he said.

"As long as we keep the quality and keep the enthusiasm, we'll always get someone coming in the door."

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