LEAFING through old note-books the other day, I came across a cutting from The Herald, dated 10 August 1996. It was written by music and food critic, the late Conrad Wilson.

He opens the article bemoaning the lack of decent restaurants in Edinburgh during the festival – how things have changed. Of the 7 or 8 restaurants he does list, the only one still in business and serving "utterly authentic food and wines that can be chosen from the vast riches of the adjoining shop" is Valvona & Crolla’s Caffè Bar.

Our Caffè Bar was born from a desire to share our love of regional Italian recipes and our own family home-cooking with our customers. A caffè at the end of a deli? What a novel idea.

All those years ago, we were on a learning curve with our customers, explaining the advantage of grating Parmigiano Reggiano onto pasta, trying to convince them that ‘greens’ could be delicious and patiently explaining that a frittata was a sort of solid omelette.

We still serve frittata, spicy with Italian sausage and lots of grated Parmigiano, set and cooled, bulging out of a ciabatta panini. But in the summer, I guilty turn to France and prefer a light, delicate omelette. What would Conrad say!

Asparagus and fontina omlette


8-10 asparagus spears

5 large free-range eggs

2 tablespoons mixed chopped herbs, parsley, basil, tarragon

Blob butter

125g fontina, Mull cheddar or gruyere cheese, grated

Lemon juice

Parmigiano Reggiano

Sea salt and black pepper


Fontina is a rich and creamy northern Italian cheese, perfect for melting.

Snap the stalks of the asparagus where they break naturally and discard the base.

(Keep aside for vegetable stock)

Use a vegetable peeler to whip off the fronds at the sides of the asparagus.

Cut into bite-sized pieces, leaving the asparagus tips separate.

Add all to boiling salted water for 5-6 minutes, drain and re-fresh in cold water.

Choose a small non-stick frying pan.

Beat the eggs well and add the chopped herbs. Use tarragon sparingly, a few leaves can give enough flavour.

Season well.

Melt the butter in the frying pan and, over a medium heat, pour in the eggs.

Swirl the eggs around until they start to set on the bottom.

Add the grated cheese and as this starts to melt, scatter across the asparagus spears.

Add a good squeeze of lemon juice and fold the omelette over to form an envelope.

Grate some Parmigiano over the surface and pop under a pre-heated grill to finish cooking the cheese, keeping the egg soft and moist inside.