EVERYONE has a story to tell.

Over the decades, running some of Glasgow’s best-loved restaurants, Lee Conetta has heard her fair share of them.

“I learned a lot working in the east end, at the Briggait, in Cambuslang – all over the city,” she explains. “I met many wonderful characters, and I learned a lot about Glasgow and her people. Most of all, I learned every person is a life, every person has a story to tell.”

Meet the woman behind the Glasgow Times’ exciting new food column, Cooking with Mrs Conetta. Each fortnight, starting tomorrow (Thursday, January 28) she will be sharing one of her favourite recipes with our readers alongside some moving, funny anecdotes about life as part of the city’s ‘food royalty’.

Mrs Conetta was born Eleanora Eastwood, daughter of Reginald and Jean, whose parents were from Italy.

“My dad was a captain in the army barracks at Lanark, and one day, all the boys were talking about this beautiful young woman who had started working at a café in Rutherglen,” she recalls.

Glasgow Times: Glasgow restaurateur Lee Conetta. Pic: Gordon Terris/Glasgow Times.Glasgow restaurateur Lee Conetta. Pic: Gordon Terris/Glasgow Times.

“They were chattering non-stop about her, so my dad popped in – and that was that. They fell in love at first sight.”

The young Eleanora met her future husband, Joe Conetta, on a night out at the dancing in Glasgow. The couple got engaged in 1967 at Lomond Castle on the banks of the loch, and were married a year later at St Columbkille’s church in Rutherglen.

“Our wedding present from my parents was a chip shop opposite the Belvedere Hospital, but I lasted six months,” laughs Mrs Conetta.

“Then my husband opened Alice’s restaurant near The Briggait – which I’m sure many Glasgow Times readers will remember.”

She smiles: “This was proper, old Glasgow, a place full of character. Quite often I’d have to step over men sleeping off the effects of the night before in our doorway when I went in to open up in the morning.

“The food was old Glasgow too - steaming pots of broth, huge pots of ribs and cabbage.”

Glasgow Times: Iain Mackenzie (1950), 'Alice's Restaurant, Glasgow'. Scottish Arts Council Gift 1997. © Iain Mackenzie Picture courtesy of The National Galleries of ScotlandIain Mackenzie (1950), 'Alice's Restaurant, Glasgow'. Scottish Arts <a href="/news/councilandpoliics/" class="section-link">Council</a> Gift 1997. © Iain Mackenzie Picture courtesy of The National Galleries of Scotland

Mrs Conetta recalls one gentleman who used to come in carrying a battered old suitcase.

“We always wondered what was inside, and one day, he left it by accident,” she says. “We waited and waited until he came back, but he never did, so eventually we opened it and discovered it was full of love letters.

“They had been sent to him by someone who had left him to go to America, expressing sadness he had been unable to join her there. We never saw him again, but his story always stayed with me.”

Another woman used to visit Alice’s with her first husband’s ashes.

“She didn’t want to leave them in the house with her second husband in case he got jealous,” hoots Mrs Conetta. “I think she was worried he might just throw them out of the window.”

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She recalls, too, the lines of homeless men who would come in for a heat and a bowl of soup.

Glasgow Times: Lee Conetta. Pic: Gordon Terris/Glasgow Times.Lee Conetta. Pic: Gordon Terris/Glasgow Times.

“It always amazed me that so many had had good jobs – GPs, for example, accountants,” she says. “But because their wives had done everything for them, when those women died, the men could not cope.”

After Alice’s, Joe and his nephew Mario Gizzi opened the city’s first two Di Maggio’s restaurants, which proved a hit with Glaswegians. The DRG chain is now Scotland’s largest independently owned restaurant operator. It is run by Mario and Joe and Lee’s son Tony and includes a collection of other city favourites including Café Andaluz, Anchor Line and Citizen.

Glasgow Times: Joe and Lee with family. Glasgow restaurateur Lee Conetta at home near Lanark. The bottle presented by Mr Lamborghini. STY .Pic Gordon Terris/Glasgow Times.18/11/20.Joe and Lee with family. Glasgow restaurateur Lee Conetta at home near Lanark. The bottle presented by Mr Lamborghini. STY .Pic Gordon Terris/Glasgow Times.18/11/20.

Joe died in 2017, and his wife misses him terribly.

“They loved everything about each other, they were adventurous, loved to travel and took risks together,” Tony said in his funeral eulogy. “He was transfixed by mum’s vivacious good looks and effervescent personality and was devoted to her for the next 49 years.”

“Everything that happened to us in our lives started with food,” says Mrs Conetta, softly. “I want to share some of those wonderful memories with Glasgow Times readers, and to hear their stories too.”

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She adds: “Joe loved Glasgow, we all do and we do care about the city – our restaurants like Anchor Line and Citizen try to preserve a little of the past, to bring it back to the fore.

“Food brings us together, and while we cannot eat together and be together right now, sharing our stories and happy memories of the good times is something we can do.”

Read the first instalment of Cooking with Mrs Conetta in tomorrow’s Glasgow Times and online at glasgowtimes.co.uk. Send your food stories to ann.fotheringham@glasgowtimes.co.uk