Scotland's larder: Marco Caira of Visocchi's in Broughty Ferry

We talk to Marco Caira of Visocchi's in Broughty Ferry about his favourite ice cream flavour, and what it is like working in the family business.

Published 29th Sep 2021
Updated 28 th Sep 2021

Visocchi's in Broughty Ferry has been run by the Caira family since 1954 – it's now run by brothers, Marco and Roberto with their mother Antonia.

In the fifties, their grandfather Marco Ciara and his wife Filomena Visocchi opened up a cafe to sell their ice cream. Marco explains: "They only had one flavour called 'white,' they didn't even call it vanilla in those days."

Award winning ices

Later, his father – also called Marco – created amazing flavours which won many awards from The Ice Cream Alliance.

One year he was pipped to the post by a friend in the ice cream sorbet class having shared his secret recipe with him.

Marco said: "It shows you how hard the judging was, they couldn't decide between them and they picked it out of a hat in the end."

Another branch of the family runs a cafe in Kirriemuir, and Marco explains the connection: "Uncle Michael, is actually my dad's cousin. He is the expert in our family's past, there is a lot to the Visocchi's history."

The Italian connection

The Visocchi's, along with a lot of other Scottish Italians, originate from Atina near Cassino, which was hard hit during the war and as a result many emigrated – "and either sold fish and chips or ice cream or both".

In 1985 Marco's father took over the running of business with his wife.

Marco is a name favoured in the family over the years, however Marco and wife Emma have broken with tradition, calling their son after the motorcyclist Valentino Rossi and the newest addition is a girl called, Azzurra.

She timed her arrival with winning precision, just hours before the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England, and is named after the Italian team's nickname, the Azzurri or the blues.

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He explains: "We had always liked the name but it made it completely clear we had to call her it that day. I jokingly said to my wife ‘I think it is going to be on the day of the final’."

Giorgio Chiellini, Captain of Italy lifts the trophy following his team's victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Final: Italy v England
at Wembley Stadium on July 11, 2021 Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty

Just the three of us

Visocchi's has always been a family business, usually a partnership between husband and wife.

Marco explains the current set up: "Since my father passed away in 2017 there are three of us."

They all know how to run all aspects of the business, but in general their mother is kitchen based, while Marco oversees staffing and front of house and brother Roberto makes ice cream.

Visocchi's is a traditional business that only recently went online; Marco said: "That was because we were forced to adapt."

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Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry
Interior of Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Adapt & Survive

During lockdown they closed initially, but were then able to sell ice cream. But as lockdown continued into winter, a period when they would normally rely on selling hot food inside, restrictions meant the cafe closed and their staff were furloughed.

Marco said it felt like, "we were fighting with both hands behind our backs, we had to adapt".

They began supplying customers with their classic Italian fare using an outside delivery company. Marco helped his mother in the kitchen, and brother Roberto and his fiance, made ice cream and co-ordinated deliveries.

They then decided to deliver themselves using Fiat 500’s, so needed an online presence: "We had never had our own website before."

Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry
Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

The demand for their takeaway service meant they had to invest in four new drivers, and re-employed their furloughed workers. Marco said: "Our staff are like family we were so happy not one of them was let go, everyone is back."

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Opening up

They cafe only fully reopened a month ago, and Marco explains they used the time to refurbished the cafe slightly. He said: ”This was the perfect opportunity."

They took a cautious approach as they didn't want to risk the closure of ice cream side as a result of track and trace. "When we did reopen it was a novelty. So it has worked in our favour but if we had to close it would've been devastating," he said.

Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry.
few of the different icecreams on offer at Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Recipe for success

Over the years they have created in excess of 800 flavours, using the unique family recipe.

Marco said: "My dad used to say there is not much difference between science and art. Science gets the recipe correct but then you add the creative stuff and imagination makes the flavours."

Marco explains the key to their success is they use the finest ingredients and make everything from scratch: "Even though it costs us more. We are not in to making a quick buck, it's our family name which means everything to us – what Italians call 'la Bella Figura'.”

While others cut corners they won't compromise: "It is about being here forever, we are very much a part of Broughty Ferry community. We have customers who remember their first cone in Visocchi's and have passed that experience on to their children."

Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry
Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Marco's favourite flavour is pistachio: “Its a premium product made of 100 per cent pistachio from Bronte in Sicily. However, with limitless ice cream on offer, it is not something you crave. We get a lot of people asking for liquorice ice cream but you have to make it last because it is such a strong flavour it is even stronger than mint."

Neither brother has any plans to move away, they both attended university locally – business management at Abertay and economics at Dundee – before working in the business.

Cafe culture

He explains the appeal of cafe life: "We were brought up in the shop, It is great, you meet new people all the time, even now I get customers saying I remember when you were in shorts running behind the counter.

"When you watch your mother cook you don't realise you are learning which made it easier when I went into the business, I knew how to do things because I had watched them for so long."

Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry
Coffee and Cannoli from Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry. Photo: LIsa Ferguson.

There is a big expectation in Italian families to join the family firm which Marco explains: “My father and aunt were both extremely intelligent. He was awarded a scholarship to the London School of Economics (LSE) but the family said ‘where are you going to? You have to take over the shop."

His father had always worked, Marco said, having once told him, that as a six year old, he used to wash the dishes by hand standing on a stool. "He would be crying but he wasn't sure is he was washing the dishes in tears or water."

Love at first sight

After studying at LSE, Marco's dad came back to Broughty Ferry to look after his elderly parents and run the shop. He married later in life, falling in love instantly with Antonia in Italy.

Marco said: “When dad saw mum she was walking down the path, a week later they decided to get married, and my wife and I got married in the same church they did."

His mother took over the running of the kitchen when she moved over from Italy. He said: " I think we had the very first espresso machine in Scotland at the time. It is hard to believe that is the kind of journey she has been on."

Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry. Photo: Lisa Ferguson
Scoops galore: Antonia Visocchi. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Working with family can be tricky but Marco explains his brother and mother get along, “although there will be an occasional Sunday where we have a right royal rumble."

He met his wife Emma when she used came into the shop – she tried to catch his eye by being the noisiest customer. " I had to look over once because I thought who the hell is being so loud."

Their first date was walk in the park: "I gave her roses and then we went to the cinema and that was 14 years ago."

The couple have plans to expand their family – "we actually want to have seven kids".

Family values

At home and in the cafe Italian is spoken, and Marco explains his son Valentino understands both languages

"When I went to school I didn't speak English,” he said. “But my parents didn't make that mistake with my brother."

Marco's brother Roberto married recently but both brothers enjoy spending time with their mum; "which is a very Italian thing".

Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry.
Wafers cones. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Looking to the next generation the brothers both have children so: "there will always be somebody to keep Visocchi's going."

It has not always been easy – Marco tells us he had to drop out of university to work in the cafe when their father fell ill, but he was able to return to his studies later when his brother came back to the business.

Their father was unwell for 12 years, Marco explains: “We didn't know what would happen with the shop, things had started to look a bit tired. Once my father passed away the family regrouped and we are stronger than we have ever been.

"We have made decisions about what had to be done, and what we want to do next."

Visocchi's Café, Broughty Ferry
Antonia with son Marco Visocchi. Photo: Lisa Ferguson


40 Gray St,
Broughty Ferry,

01382 779297

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