A FOURTH generation of the Coia family has a new vision for the East End institution, which celebrates its 90th birthday this year.

At just 21-years-old, confident Carlo Coia is preparing to learn the ropes of a business which has been in his family’s hands since September, 1928.

Like his father Alfredo, 55, Carlo wants to move the business forward - and it is a goal he believes he can achieve given what his ancestors did.

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Alfredo and Carlo

“It was only a wee café when I was younger and I have had the chance to see it grow to what it is today,” explained Carlo.

He added: “The foundations weren’t there 90 years ago and you were the same as everyone else trying to start up a business.

“Now we have got the name and with my dad’s help I can take it to next level.”

Alfredo explained: “I had ambition of creating the restaurant and I never thought it would be reality.

“My son’s vision is to take it to another level again, and have another Coia’s Cafe or have a bigger version of this. But we will never ever move from the East End of Glasgow, we will always have our roots here. This will always be the flagship.”

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Alfredo’s grandfather Carmine, who was affectionately known as Charlie, set up the first Coia’s Cafe on the corner of Duke Street.

A shop-fitter by trade, Carmine and his wife Amalia came to Scotland from Filiano in Italy.

Father-of-three Alfredo said: “My grandparents came over here in the early 1900s, with no intention of opening a restaurant or café at that time.

“My grandfather’s trade was shopfitting so him and his brother-in-law had a company called C and C Coia’s Shopfitting.

“It was my grandmother who decided to open the café in 1928. They probably saw a wee niche in the market for doing it because Italians are clever with food.

“They used to make their own ice cream and juices. The café started off with a very small menu and slowly customer demand build it up.”

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Alfredo’s father Nicky, above, then became more involved and took over the cafe in the 1950s.

Alfredo, who runs Coia’s Cafe with his wife Antonia, said: “When my father Nicky had a bit influence in the business, he brought in more food and different confectioneries. We started to sell really nice chocolates and he always bought a variety of Easter Eggs.”

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Alfredo watched his dad, above, and mum Ena move the business forward. The shop also had to move further along Duke Street due to a compulsory purchase order. Despite a new location and some growth, Alfredo initially wanted to do his own thing.

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He said: “I grew up in the shop. Even when I came back from school, it was straight into the shop and I would work away.

“I always wanted to do something to do with food. I always thought I really don’t want to work with my dad, I wanted to do something different.

“I went away and trained as chef. I came home and I saw my father struggling as far as his work rate – it was just getting too much.

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“I started helping him at weekends. The more I helped him, the more I got involved and basically I never left. I ran the business with him through the late 70s to 80s until I got married as well.

“Then my wife and I came into the business and worked alongside my parents. We always had a vision of opening other place.”

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That vision became a reality when the tenement next to Coia’s Cafe was demolished. It lay empty for years until a builder stepped in to redevelop the waste land. He proposed nine new flats as well as a unit for Coia’s Cafe to take up.

Alfredo said: “When we first opened it, we thought we were going to lose customers because it was different from what it used to be. But we haven’t looked back.”

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Now the restaurant has become extremely popular with Glaswegians, tourists and celebrities including funny woman Elaine C Smith and Still Game star Ford Kiernan.

Alfredo said: “Coia’s Cafe is family run and it has history - that’s why people love it. It is a bit of institution and it is a landmark.

“We were mentioned in the Scotland the Best 100 places book by Peter Irvine. He said it is “the food you think about on the way home from Tenerife”.

“It was that comment that best described us because we still get people to this day saying I am so glad to be back from my holidays to get a Coia’s.”

He added: “You can get anything you like in here. It is so bespoke - that is another reason why it is so popular. It is customer demand, that has always driven the café."

From breakfast to Italian favourites and fish tea, Coia’s Cafe pride themselves in being able to offer a menu which caters for the whole family.

Alfredo said: “What I am most proud of is the fact we still have the family businesses. The same name, the same recipe for ice cream, and we even make steak pie the way my mother used to - we have not lost it.”

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The journey to 90 years, however, is tinged with sadness. For the family lost Nicky, above, last year, who died at the age of 84.

Alfredo said: “As soon as I think of my dad, the first thing that comes into my head is a bit of sadness, but he was so much full of fun and life. His influence on me as far as running the business is concerned I couldn’t take away. He is a big miss.

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“He had so much time for people. My dad was one of these guys who would have two minutes to give and that is why he was loved. I’m trying to get that into these guys for the next generation. There is very few businesses that can give you that personal touch.”

The special birthday, which was recognised by the Scottish Parliament, will be marked with several celebration events this September which have still to be announced.

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But for the people of Glasgow, Coia’s Cafe is a place which has allowed them to create memories within their own family.

Alfredo, above, said: “We wouldn’t be here without our customers. They are so loyal. In my dad’s day, one woman came in every Sunday with an empty bowl and asked him to put 10 scoops of ice cream with raspberry in it. She would then nick up stairs, stick it in chill and that would be dessert for her family. Everyone had a vision of what they went to Coia’s for.”

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That vision may change with Carlo in charge although he is still to earn his braces, something most customers will know is a fashion choice of both Alfredo and his late father.

Alfredo joked: “He has no qualified for braces yet. He needs to sit the braces exam.“

Carlo said: “I realise the position I am and it is exciting. It is going to be tough work, I don’t expect to do it in the next two or three years. It is going to take a lot of time and patience. We will get there, I am confident I will achieve what I have got in my head.”

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Alfredo added: “It would be fantastic to be sitting here in 10 years time saying, we are 100 years old. There is not many businesses that you could mention that have the same family, three almost four generations down the line who are basically running a successful business. I hope that can continue.”