Why it's time for last orders at Dino's

GENERATIONS of diners have fallen in love with one of Glasgow's best known Italian restaurants since it first opened its doors five decades ago.

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Restaurateur Alfredo Crolla is selling up after more than 30 years at the helm of Dino Ferrari's in Sauchiehall Street
Restaurateur Alfredo Crolla is selling up after more than 30 years at the helm of Dino Ferrari's in Sauchiehall Street

Time and time again families return to Dino's legendary eaterie in Sauchiehall Street for a touch of nostalgia and a taste of Italy.

It first opened in the 1960s, when the country was gripped by Beatlemania.

But now the owners are calling time.

And today businessman Alfredo Crolla tells why he is shutting Dino's.

In five weeks time the shutters will come down on Dino's after the Halifax bank decided it was the ideal location for a new branch.

The move comes even though the Bank of Scotland - part of the same banking group - has a large branch almost directly across the same busy pedestrianised street.

Alfredo says he hadn't put the business up for sale, even though he is 72-years-old.

He said: "The Halifax approached me. They wanted to buy my interest. When they first asked I said no. But at my age I realised, why not? There must be millions of other things I can do. They made me a reasonable offer. But nothing has been decided yet. It might not happen or it may be delayed. Sometimes I hope it will not happen."

But all the indications are that the landmark city centre trattoria will disappear.

A deal has been agreed in principal. Lawyers are working hard to have it signed, sealed and delivered. Staff have been told Dino's will close on Sunday, March 16, and Alfredo admits that a lot of tears will be shed.

The businessman has managed the restaurant since he and his brother Giovanni, 74, took over the diner more than 30 years ago, but makes plain that time has caught up with him.

He says: "You can't stop working when you have been working for so many years. It's been so enjoyable but my body has told me that enough is enough.

"My main hobby is travelling. Every year I like to go to a different country for the sun in winter time. I never go to the same place twice. I've travelled quite a bit of the world. In the summer I go back to my homeland of Italy."

A lot more travelling is on the horizon for this grandfather who lives in Glasgow's West End. The same can be said for his customers.

One man was overheard asking a staff member: "Is it true that your closing? This is terrible. Where I am going to go if you're not here?"

The restaurant has the name Dino Ferrari emblazed in large red lettering across the door .

It sits on part of the site in Sauchiehall Street where the Empire Theatre once stood, before it burned to the ground in the late 60s. Ferrari's was the name of a once top restaurant of choice by celebrities whenever they were in Glasgow.

It was next door to Dino's, which swallowed it up when the eaterie was expanded by Alfredo and his older brother Giovanni who, in the 60s, employed 240 staff at various businesses including the Buchanan Hotel, Berkeley Restaurant at Charing Cross and the La Costiera Restaurant inWest Regent Street.

Today Dino's takes up all of Alfredo's time - apart the time he spends with his grandchildren and his two sons. One of them owns the Bella Napoli in Shawlands while the other the Italian restaurant Panevino in Argyle Street.

Today, older brother Giovanni lives in Edinburgh, leaving Alfredo in charge of the restaurant's 36 staff. He'll miss them all and admits: "I'm 72 and this is why I'm retiring. I've been here seven days a week for 34 years and I love it.

"I love the passion of the food and the people who come in for a meal and then tell me how much they enjoyed it. That's a real pleasure for me. I'm very pleased about that.

"My customers are all friends. They keep coming back. People who have emigrated come back after 20 years. Some come straight from the airport for a meal here before going home because Dino's was their favourite restaurant. I find that very touching.

Customers came here with their grandparents and their mum and dad and now they come with their own children. To me that is just so incredible.

"I will miss my customers and my staff. My staff have been with me for a long, long time. Some have been with me for 30 to 35 years. They are my family.

"When I decided I wanted to retire the first thing I asked myself was, what about my staff? How will I tell them? I will let them all down. But I have an awful lot of restaurateur friends in the city. I will circulate them and recommend they employ some of the very experienced staff that I have."

It's 50 years since Alfredo left the Lazio region of Italy, south of Rome, to put down new roots in Scotland's biggest city. He's worked hard all his life and plans to embrace retirement in the same manner. The businessman is exploring the idea of bowing out in style by hosting a dinner with the proceeds going to charity.

Dino's has not only been a haven for ordinary Glasgwegians. Celebrities appearing at the Royal Concert Hall and on stage at local theatres have sampled Alfredo's food. But the canny caterer politely declines naming names. "I'd rather not," he says almost apologetically.

However, a framed photograph proudly hangs on the wall of celebrity chef Antonio Carluccio, who came to the eaterie on a trip to Glasgow a decade ago.

But with retirement looming, will he return to his homeland? "No, no," says Alfredo emphatically. "I have my family and grandchildren and all my friends are here.

"How you say, I left Italy because the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. When I realised it wasn't, I had fallen in love with Scotland. Here is my home. I will never leave."

gordon.thomson@ eveningtimes.co.uk

Food and drink

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