Edinburgh Evening News – Friday 17th March 2000

If L’Alba D’Oro, the Henderson Row New Town chippie, has a claim to fame, apart from a lofty rating in the Gourmet’s Guide to Fish and Chips, it’s that Robbie Coltrane tripped in one night to place his order.

“Double fish ‘n’ chips, please, two pickled onions, salt and vinegar. And a black pudding for the dog.” To go. Nobody could confirm there was actually a pug in the car.

Big Colters must have enjoyed his snack anyway because he came back (not the same day) for more. Sheena MacDonald’s another customer, though never as ravenous with it. Add rugby’s Hasting’s brothers to the custom.
L’Alba D’Oro (Italian for Golden Dawn) this month celebrates its 25th anniversary and its owner Filippo Crolla says he owes it to the Italian army.
“I was working on my dad’s farm at Cassino when I fled to Scotland in 1972 rather than do 18 months National Service. I’m an ex-farmer who’s never been afraid of hard work. I came to Glasgow, worked in a chippie there for two years before I settled in Edinburgh and opened my own place in Henderson row in 1975. I’ve got to say, otherwise she’d hit me, that the shop, which has tripled in size, wouldn’t have been a success without Celeste, the girl from the same village I married at 20. She was 17.”
The anniversary will be marked a week tomorrow night with a happy hour, from 5 to 8pm with “selected suppers and chips” at half price, a piper and a charity raffle.

You won’t get battered Mars Bars at those prices. Says Filippo: “Nobody was battering Mars Bars 25 years ago. I tried that here for a while but the chocolate gummed up the fat.

“Nobody can say we haven’t tried. We’ve done crocodile, kangaroo, ostrich and venison with little success. There are more traditionalists in the New Town than you’d think.”


Edinburgh Evening News – Saturday 13th May 2000

Chip shops in Edinburgh have always had a reputation for deep frying everything from pizzas to Mars Bars.

But now one of the capital’s chippies has broken new ground with the latest addition to its menu – crocodile suppers.

L’Alba D’Oro is serving up the battered reptile to customers who have been snapping up the delicacy since it first went on sale on Wednesday.

Filippo Crolla, who owns the takeaway at Henderson Row, says he spent 22 years looking for a supplier of the exotic meat ever since he bought a stuffed crocodile from a second hand shop in Leith in 1978 to decorate his shop.

“It was really battered and I had to take it to a taxidermist in Cramond to patch it up, but as soon as I put it in the window people started coming in asking if we sold crocodile and chips,” he said.

“I’ve been trying to find a supplier since then and now I have found a firm in England who produce the meat and we have crocodile on the menu.

“A couple of Americans came in on Wednesday night and ordered crocodile and they were delighted with it.

“Another chap came in and bought six portions but he took them away so I don’t know what he thought of them.”

Mr Crolla has taken delivery of four two-and-a-half kilo crocodile tails which are now on sale in the shop cooked to his own special recipe.

“All you can use are the tails,” he said. “The rest of the body is no good so you just get from the legs backwards. You can get about 20 fillets out of a tail once you’ve taken the bones out.

“I marinate the fillets in milk, salt and pepper and breadcrumbs and a couple of eggs and mix them all together to give it the good flavours. Then you dip it in batter and just cook it very lightly for two or three minutes. It’s very tasty.

“The taste is very difficult to describe. I did a test run on my staff and some said it tasted of monkfish, others said it was like chicken or pork.

“People are fairly shocked when they see it on the menu. It’s a bit different from ordering a pie and chips. But it’s my job to cook new things for people and let them choose whether to eat them.”

Mr Crolla still has the original stuffed crocodile which spurred him on in his hunt for the real thing to serve up in his chippie.

“The beast now takes centre stage at the shop hanging on the wall. I fell in love with it when I first saw it.

“I got it in 1978 and since then I have been enquiring about where I could get a supplier for crocodile meat. It felt so good when I found a supplier because it was something I’ve always wanted to serve. We have tried a few alternatives over the years. We did kangaroo for a bit and tried ostrich and emu but I think people are often a bit scared to try something new.

“The crocodile has been popular but I can’t see it overtaking the fish supper. That’s the fast food leader and will never be beaten.

“And I have to charge £5 for the crocodile which is much more than fish.” Celebrity chef and food critic Clarissa Dickson Wright said she would be keen to try the supper.

“I think it might be quite nice fried,” she said. “It’s quite like a textured meat. I don’t dislike it.

“Kangaroo meat is quite nice. I’m half Australian and when I was last out there I had some roast leg of kangaroo.

“Ostrich meat is not nice but the liver is delicious, especially made into a pâté. I shall certainly try out the crocodile.”

– Chris Marks