OUR new columnist, Lee Conetta, is Glasgow food royalty, with many years’ experience helping to run one of the city’s biggest restaurant groups. Each fortnight in Times Out, she will share memories of her life less ordinary, and the food she loves to cook. This week, Mrs Conetta demonstrates the value (sometimes) of living a little dangerously and rustles up a very simple but delicious carne patate (beef and potato stew.)

THE stories I share often revolve around the holidays my late husband Joe and I took with our children.

And of course, the food we ate there.

One year in Italy, we headed into the hills above Giulianova, a coastal town in Abruzzo, to visit a restaurant which had been recommended to us. The headwaiter had worked in Joe’s uncle’s restaurant in Glasgow,. (Readers may remember Landi and Mary Conetta of The Exchange, Yellow Bird and Kingburger fame.)

Lee Conetta with late husband Joe on holiday.

Lee Conetta with late husband Joe on holiday.

When we arrived, we discovered it was closed. As we stood for a moment admiring the view, which was so magnificent, a car drew up and two men and a woman got out. They were Italian gypsies, dressed in beautiful costume – colourful waistcoats for the men, and a bright dirndl skirt for the woman.

They nodded to us, and began to sing beautiful, old Italian songs which pulled at my heartstrings.

Joe, in his usual cheeky manner, said: ‘My wife can sing.’ After some hesitation I gave in and sang my usual Santa Lucia. The elder of the two men came over and invited us to dinner at a restaurant he knew.

My children were just three and six, and I was a bit apprehensive - but we decided to go. After 15 kilometres and no sign of any restaurant, I was beginning to worry and even Joe had started to doubt our impulsiveness. Eventually, we stopped at a restaurant in a wooded area, and the singers went inside.We were the only people in the empty restaurant, and I was full of trepidation.

And then, it started to fill up and the food arrived, which cheered us up. A fantastic antipasto, a wild boar pasta, goat with peppers and roast potatoes with rosemary and salad….After the meal, everyone sang and played music, and it was wonderful. I had to pinch myself that I was not dreaming.

At the end of the night, Joe leaned over anxiously and asked me how much I thought it would cost.

READ MORE: Cooking with Mrs Conetta - 'We must teach our children to be passionate about food'

“There must be 40 people here, do we have to pay for it all?” he wondered. But when he went to pay, our host jumped up and said we must not, we were his guests. Outside the restaurant, we said our goodbyes, and our host said to Joe, “My name is Miguel, you are Giuseppe, and now we are brothers. I will pray for you.”

It was a strange and surreal evening, but it was lovely to be surrounded by good food and music and the company of good people. It showed me that sometimes in life you have to live a little dangerously or you will not experience all that life has to offer after all.

Lee Conettas beef stew. Pic Gordon Terris/ Herald&Times

Lee Conetta's beef stew. Pic Gordon Terris/ Herald&Times


This week’s recipe is about good, honest food made to share with family or friends. Carne patate, or meat and potato stew, is a delicious and simple dish. Enjoy.


680 grams of meat – you can choose whichever you like, I prefer to use beef or pork

8 potatoes, peeled – King Edwards are the best, I find

2 bottles of passata

3 cloves of garlic

Salt and pepper

A little extra virgin olive oil.

A red pepper, chopped (optional)


1. Brown the meat in the olive oil in a pan on top of the stove.

2. Cut the potatoes into chunks and add them to the pan.

3. Add the garlic and passata and the red pepper, if you like – this can be left out, but I like to add it.

4. Cook for approximately 40 minutes either on the stove or transfer to the oven.

5. Season and serve.