Valvona & Crolla Caffè Bar & Restaurant, Edinburgh


Valvona & Crolla Caffè Bar & Restaurant

19 Elm Row, Edinburgh EH7 5AA

0131 556 6066

Valvona Interior 2

The Bill

Antipasti £7.00 - £16.00 | Panetella (Flatbread Sandwiches) £12.00 

Pasta £18.00- £20.00 |  Primi Piatti £16.00 - £26.00 

Dolci £4.00 - £7.00

The Score

Cooking - Pasta 7/10: Other 4/10 - Average 5.5/10  Service 4/5 

Flavour  4/5 | Value 3.5/5

TOTAL 17/25 

Marriage, declared Groucho Marx, is an institution. And who wants to live in an institution?

Perhaps it's an age thing, but things with history seem to have been resonating with this column a bit of late. Take, for example the restaurant in Ely, founded in 1968, and still run by the same lady. Well, the inhabitants of 19 Elm Row would be entitled to scoff,  just a bairn, or something along those lines. Valvona & Crolla was a mature specimen by that time, having been founded in 1934.

Originally set up to serve the increasing number of Italian immigrant families, V & C was regarded as an Edinburgh institution even in the 1970s when I first came to live in the city. The only problem was my aversion to queuing. On a Saturday - the only day I had free -  long lines going up Elm Row were an ever present. Now they did look after expectant shoppers very well. Sometimes they would hand out little pieces of a new fangled food called pizza.

The huge attraction, aside from the glorious smells when you entered, was the novelty. Eating places run by Italians were serving, in the main, fish, chips and ice cream. A few restaurants were springing up, but, by and large, in V & C you were seeing and trying food that simply was not available elsewhere. But society moved on, and so did the current owners the Continis, themselves descendants of the founders.

If you'd asked me to guess when they opened the Caffè Bar & Restaurant, I would have suggested within the last 10 to 15 years. 1996 is the answer. If you take hotels out of the equation, how many Edinburgh eating places are close to completing their third decade?

It's a cosy rectangle at the back of the shop, decorated with artwork of the shop itself, and other Edinburgh stuff. I spy a Richard Demarco print, ingeniously depicting all of the Old Town buildings condensed on to one canvas. The staff smile; the place feels good. It's lunchtime. Opening hours are 9 - 6, Monday to Saturday. Trade is brisk. We are here courtesy of our generous niece and nephew who gave us Christmas vouchers.

I've written a bit about pasta and its prices of late. I looked at the menu online beforehand. Most of the prices on today's menu have jumped a couple of quid. That's understandable, but they should be updating the site. Of the four pasta dishes on the menu, three are priced at £20, the other being just £2 cheaper. Fortunately, if you ask, they will serve you a half portion.

I was therefore quite happy to pay £12 for a just the right size bowl of taglierini with two cheeses, pesto and pistachios. Taglierini are narrower versions of tagliatelle, and very fine they were too. If you take smooth, blitzed ones out of the occasion, most soups are better on day two, or later. That would certainly have applied to the chickpea and kale broth. Tasty, but the pulses were a bit on the solid side. Soup of the day on Wednesday? Wait till Thursday. Maybe the price will have come down from seven quid, but I doubt it.

More pasta for mains. Another classic, Tortelloni with Ricotta and Mushroom, Sage Butter, Parmigiano Reggiano. Seen it on a million menus. Some things are classics for a reason. Delightful. The carnivore, however, fared less well. When you serve lamb rump with a pistachio crumb, the crumb should be green and the lamb should be pink. Black and grey is a less appealing colour combination. By some miracle it wasn't dried out and was tasty enough as were the rosemary flavoured potatoes; however, the whole plate was a little on the greasy side.

For pud you could have had the usual suspects, gelato, sorbet, tiramisu. In addition there were a few tempting looking torte, which in Italian can mean either a cake or a tart. Flourless chocolate, polenta and lemon were all on offer, as well as Valvona's take on bread and butter pudding using panettone.

The verdict? Enjoyable enough, but...  Though the well filled dining room perhaps suggests that I'm being a little over critical.


  1. Robert Corrigan on 28th April 2023 at 11:02 am

    I actually think you have been as often the case a little too generous.
    I ate there 3 times and it was a difficult experience on all three occasions. Never ever again!

    • Tom Johnston on 28th April 2023 at 6:12 pm

      Behave yourself, Robert. You can’t possibly comment on my scoring for a meal which you didn’t eat. While you say I’m too generous, our scores for meals we’ve shared have seldom been more than 1 point apart. I consider it incredibly important to be consistent, so I’m not going to start getting tougher in my old age. In the case of V & C, I’m surprised you gave it a third chance. I certainly won’t be rushing back, and you’ll see the other comments.

  2. Janet Hood on 28th April 2023 at 5:11 pm

    The best dish I had in V&C was about 10 years ago when I landed on a day when the offering of the day was white truffle tagliatelle- just pasta al dente, butter and a generous serving of white truffle – it was magic- never had a better version – yes it was v expensive – so were the ingredients – I didn’t mind – I was a tad disappointed on next visit as meal was not up to snuff and have never eaten there again.

  3. Fiona Garwood on 28th April 2023 at 5:13 pm

    Interesting review. We regard V & C as a treat, including exploring the shop and wines. Funny experience there one Christmas. Took in an empty sweet Italian wine bottle and asked if they stocked it. “No” came the answer, “but I have one from the next door vineyard”.

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