Born: December 18, 1925; Died: January 24, 2012.

Gina Sarti, who has died aged 86, arrived in Glasgow as a young Tuscan teenager and became the inspirational matriarch of one of Scotland's most famous Italian business dynasties.

Born Luigina Fazzi, in Vinchiana, near Lucca, she first came to the city with her father in 1939 to help in the family business he founded, Fazzi Brothers. She later married another fellow Italian, Lucio Sarti, whom she met over the deli counter, forging a long and successful partnership which produced two sons who created the Fratelli Sarti chain.

However, her early years in Scotland were blighted by the hardship of war, when she faced the heartbreak of leaving her mother and sisters behind at home in Italy, only to be separated from her father when he and his brothers were interned on the Isle of Man after Italy sided with Germany. Undeterred, she continued to work in the shop and make the journey to the Lancashire coast and across the Irish Sea every five weeks to visit them with food parcels.

Though she returned to Italy after the war, a year or so later she was back in Scotland, where she remained for the greater part of her life. Despite her obvious affinity with Glasgow – she became a British citizen fairly soon after arriving – she always regarded herself as a Vinchianina, steeped in the culture of her birthplace.

Her father, Pietro Fazzi, had already been to Scotland and founded Fazzi Brothers by the time she was born. In the years before the outbreak of the First World War he first worked in a friend's fish and chip shop in Motherwell's Windmillhill Street before buying him out and bringing his brothers, Angelo and Guiseppe, over to join him. They then opened a second business, a billiard hall.

Pietro capitalised on his friendship with the Bertolli family back in Tuscany and began bringing in produce such as their famed Bertolli olive oil, along with Mennucci pasta, making the Fazzis the first importers of Italian food into Scotland, with Angelo selling tomato puree and spaghetti door-to-door from his motorbike and sidecar.

During the years of the First World War the business moved to Glasgow's Clyde Street and by 1939 young Gina's father was spending six months of the year in Italy where the Fazzi family also had a restaurant, La Locanda, which was frequented by Mussolini's right-hand man, Count Galeazzo Ciano.

With uncertainty about what was to happen after Britain declared war on Germany, Pietro decided to go back to his brothers in Glasgow, taking his daughter with him. She worked in the delicatessen and lived with her aunt Lina in a flat in Hill Street.

When her father and uncles were interned as enemy aliens she continued to work at Fazzi's, which was run by their employee Guiseppe Biagioni, known in Glasgow as Josie. They were difficult years and she didn't get much new from her mother and sisters at home.

It later transpired that La Locanda had been mined and blown up by the Germans after rumours that the family were British sympathisers. Although the family members were safe, they did shield an RAF flier who was hidden in their attic after being deposited with them by partisans.

She was reunited with her family when she returned to Italy with her father and uncles when they were released at the end of the war. After about a year at home she came back to the shop in Glasgow where she met Lucio Sarti, her future husband, in the late 1940s. He had fought for Italy in Albania and Yugoslavia and became a PoW when Italy capitulated.

After the war he too ended up in Glasgow, working at Rossi's café in Argyle Street. He could speak no English but got to know his future wife as he shopped at Fazzi's. The couple married in St Mary's, Pollokshaws, Glasgow, in 1950.

Sarti joined his father-in-law in Fazzi's where he eventually became a director. He and Gina had two sons, Sandro and Piero, and after a spell as a full-time mother she returned to work and instigated the opening of the first Fazzi's Caffe Bar in Cambridge Street, which she also managed.

Her two sons, who had worked for Fazzi Brothers for many years, went on to open the first Sarti restaurant in Glasgow's Wellington Street in 1992. Restaurants in Bath Street and Renfield Street followed. Her granddaughter Daniela – Sandro's daughter – bought the latter business in 2002 and in 2008 she and a management team bought the other two Sarti eateries.

Gina and Lucio Sarti retired in 1990 and moved to Vinchiana but she continued to return periodically and part of her Tuscan heritage remains in Scotland, through her family and her culinary expertise.

An excellent cook, her recipes, including her ragu and typical Tuscan country fare, are still used today in the Fratelli Sarti restaurant group, now run by the team which includes the third generation of her family.

Widowed in 2004, she died in Tuscany and was laid to rest in her birthplace.

She is survived by her sons, Sandro and Piero, grandchildren Daniela, Claudia, Gianluca, Massimo and Gabriella, two great grandchildren and her three sisters Anna, Sera and Ceci.