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Carina Contini

Director Contini Restaurants

  • What was your favourite subject at school?
    I loved history and arithmetic. As soon as it got to maths, I was never quite as enthusiastic.
  • What was your first job?
    I’m the youngest of 8 children and I was born in July 1970. My parents, typical Italian Scots, had cafes on the East Coast of Scotland. I’d have to say my first job was in the pram outside the Wemyss Cafe in Port Seton in the summer of 1970. My mother said it was the busiest summer ever. The Scottish tradition of putting a “penny in the pram” made my parents a fortune. Serving ice cream in this cafe was part of my life until I was 18, when my parents retired. I can’t remember my first shift.
  • Which is your favourite restaurant /hotel?
    I’m lucky to have visited many beautiful places and food is always the final destination. Some trips are wonderful moments in a lifetime that will never be repeated, others become part of your soul. Our favourite restaurant is a very unassuming pizzeria on Via Roma in Ischia Porto called Da Raffaelli. It’s a second generation family business serving classic rustic Neapolitan food. No airs and graces here. If we’re visiting we’re on holiday. It’s been a long time since we’ve been there but we know there will be a very warm welcome as soon as we pass the threshold. We all love it.
  • How do you inspire your team It’s easy to inspire like minded individuals. You learn from each other and respect each other. Getting to know people, working with them side by side makes hospitality a pleasure and it’s what I love doing. Life expectations at different generations are changing and sometimes it’s hard to share your knowledge or experience without being interpreted as patronising or condescending. We all have different limits and a different pace of work and for learning. Trying to understand each individual’s parameters and monitors is key to getting the best out of them and getting them to buy into your vision. I’m learning new tactics all the time.
  • Which person in hospitality have you most admired / inspired you? Mr Lederer CBE. Peter is loved by all who know him. He had been a customer of ours for too many years to count. When someone told me who he was, it was one of those lightbulb moments. Quietly observing. Never intrusive, never expecting. Gently guiding. He’s a customer that we think of as a friend and one of the personalities in life that make you love people and make you love hospitality. It’s always a pleasure to look after beautiful people and this gentleman is one of the very best.
  • How do you manage your stress levels? Covid. One positive of Covid is there was so much out of our control that I just had to let it go. I’ve changed. Perhaps the better word is mellowed, over the last two years. I’m calmer, as I’ve acknowledged the things that I can’t change but focus my energy more on the things that I can influence. I exercise more (out of necessity as my waistline needs it) and we have a puppy. I was never a dog lover but I’ve been converted. It’s fascinating that something so energetic can create so much calm. The joy he brings to everyone in the family (and visits to the team) is remarkable.
  • Instagram, Twitter or Facebook – and why? Twitter. Mike Coulter (one of the Edinburgh Coffee Morning guroos) got me started the year it was launched. My head naturally understands it. Ian Rankin once said on the platform that the discipline of 140 characters improved his writing. Twitter for me is short and sweet and it feels the most real of all the platforms. I’ve never been able to get around Facebook, somehow it felt too invasive from the start. Instagram is nice but maybe a bit too showy for me.
  • If you had not gone into hospitality, where do you think you would be now? I graduated as a surveyor and worked in the sector for four years before I joined Victor in his family business. If I hadn’t married Victor, I’m sure I’d be involved with buildings somehow.
  • What did you do on your last days off?
    The housework. Although this weekend we’re taking a day off to visit our son in Aberdeen. We’re heading off on the train with Rocco for a wee adventure.
  • What do you do to relax, to support your wellbeing?
    We live in Lasswade. 5 miles from Edinburgh. We’re so lucky to be surrounded by nature. Our 1 acre kitchen garden sits at the edge of the woods that lead down to the Water of Leith and over to Mavisbank. The countryside is so beautiful, especially in the Springtime. A walk in nature it’s as healing as a trip to a spa for me. Fresh air, exercise, my husband for company and an hour a day keeps us healthy and blows the cobwebs away. My husband is a companion in life and in business. After 28 years of marriage I’m finally starting to appreciate him. It’s not always been easy, but we are definitely a good team and better and strong together than apart.