restaurant blog

Glasgow is Italys Paesano  

  
Everyone has an opinion about pizza. Whether you are a self proclaimed ‘foodie’ that goes to the award winning restaurants, the one who has visited Italy, the student who eats them all the time or Joe Bloggs… you probably have an opinion on what a good pizza should be like. For me pizza was affordable as a student and I felt comfortable treating myself to dinner out at an Italian restaurant. It was a gateway into going out for dinner more, branching out and trying new foods. Topping combinations have got ever more inventive over the years too. Sometimes too crazy in my opinion – they lose sight of what the classic pizza is. 


My dad describes pizza in Italy as having big blown out doughy sides and minimal cheese and toppings. Quality not quantity. I should get to experience it myself next year but in the meantime a new kid on the block had opened in Glasgow claiming to do authentic Italian pizzas. All independent Paesano sell is pizza and a few sides – 8 pizzas to be exact. It’s now acceptable to only offer one thing – and minimal choices of – in a restaurant, on trend in fact. Some people may not like it but, if you’ve read other posts of mine, I’m an advocate of doing less things well. 
  
The restaurant inside has an industrial feel. It’s in a big building on Miller Street & the seating is wooden benches and canteen style tables. Urban chic if you will. Definitely not somewhere for you if you like a cushioned seat with a structured back. Dare I utter the words that this is a ‘young’ place. Oops, I might as well have said hipster. Please forgive my sweeping generalisation but here goes. I only mean that in the sense that most twenty year olds that I’ve encountered couldn’t care less what they sit on, how loud a place is and generally like a large social space. On the other hand, most sixty year olds that I know want comfy seating and to be able to have a conversation without having to raise their voice. I am 31 years old and I’ve started to care about it more and more! Luckily Paesano didn’t have music blaring and the seats were comfy enough to feed my bambino. 
 

White Anchovies

 
We had warmed our bellies up with some white anchovies and now it was all down to the pizza. It was lunchtime and they arrived quickly so this is the sort of place that you could come to in your lunch hour. 

At Paesano they pride themselves on proper imported Italian ingredients being cooked in a wood fired oven that comes from Naples. Initial impressions were positive – big blown out sides of fired dough with scattered toppings in the middle. They use fior di latte mozzarella (unless you upgrade to Buffalo), which I prefer to buffalo mozzarella as it has a creamier and less smoky flavour. 
  
You could tell that the toppings used were of a high quality, from the tasty cotto ham to the sweet tomato sugo. The pizzas had a delicious crispy sourdough crust that contrasted with the soft centre. 

The middle of the pizza was soft and might challenge what you are used to. On first thought the word soggy came to mind but I generally use that word negatively and this wasn’t a negative. Sure, it was the kind of pizza that is best eaten with cutlery but I think that we’ve just gotten too used to cardboard like bases on our pizza over here. I’ll be the first to admit that a pizza with a soft middle can put me off but this one was different. It was soft because the balls of fior di latte have a softer texture, because the sugo isn’t pumped with filler to make it thicker and because the toppings were chosen on flavour and not on moisture levels. 
  
The ice-cream bowls are cute and score points with me. I’m hoping they have a few short bowls for children because it’s a disaster waiting to spill in a tall dish. 

The soft ice-cream has that milky tone to it as opposed to overly creamy. Something that is important in Italian ice-cream from what I understand. Anyway, I liked it and the sauces gave it a retro feel. 
  
For fellow parentals, there is baby change and the staff were accommodating and courteous about the fact that I had a little baba in tow with pram and all that comes with it. 
We encountered waiting staff and management and found them all to be friendly and approachable. 

I’ll get my dad to visit next time he’s in Glasgow to see if they get the authentic seal of approval. He talks about real Italian pizza all the time so he’s my man in the know. 

It was a tasty pizza indeed and I enjoyed my experience. We went for lunch but it’s also the kind of informal place that’s ideal for a few friends post work to enjoy pizza and a beer. With my hearing it’d probably be too loud on a Saturday night but I’ll be back midweek with my own paesano. 

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Number 16 – Should Be Up Every Glasgow Street

 

Not every dinner that I write about involves masses of time taking photos and researching – life is for living after all. The night in question this time was spent in Number 16 restaurant on Byres Road, in the heart of Glasgows West End. Unbeknown to me, this meal was the last restaurant blow-out that I would have for a while involving copious amounts of vino now that I’m on a nine month plus sabbatical so I’m glad it was such an enjoyable night. 

The photos are terrible due to low lighting issues and prosecco, but they’re the only ones I have so I’m including them anyway. 
The first starter to arrive is a dish that showcases what I would describe as Number 16’s signature style – they excel at Asian cooking as much as they do Scottish & you’re always flipping a coin in there over which route to go down. It was Asian spiced beef tempura with wasabi mayonnaise, sweet chilli, coriander and pickled radish. Tempura doesn’t often look pretty but they managed it here, and kept the batter light and crisp. Scooping a bit of each element of the dish into each mouthful was important here to appreciate the sweet, spicy, acidic flavours as one & it was a fantastic dish. 

 

Tempura £7.50

 
  

Crispy ham hock terrine won as the starter of preference with two of the table choosing it. No 16 served it with vanilla & apple purée, sweet & sour raisins and piccalilli but the accompaniments sounded too sweet for me. The two of them thought it was delicious and, having tried some, I changed my mind too although I’m not one for vanilla with savoury. 

Terrine £6.50

 I’ve had soup in here before and they always pull it off so I don’t feel hard done by looking at other starters as I sometimes do in other restaurants with soup. This time it was cream of wild mushroom with tarragon and white truffle oil. Consistency and depth of flavour were exactly perfect for me and the tarragon shone through without eclipsing the mushrooms. The truffle oil added an earthy element and further emphasised the shrooms in the dish. 

Soup £4.95

 The mains were up and meat had won again with two of us picking the carnivorous menu option. The piscivores face lit up at the sight of his pan seared loin of yellowfin tuna with smoked haddock brandade, fennel & red onion salad served with warm vierge dressing. The tuna looked perfectly cooked, the smoked haddock brandade (or olive oil emulsion- we googled it) accentuated the rich fish flavour with the aniseedy salad providing some bite. The plate was clean in about five minutes so safe to say it was successful.

Tuna £17.95

I would have been happy with any of the mains on the menu that night but the braised ox cheek drew me in. It was a dish for a cold day, and that it was. The garlic & chive mash and red cabbage were both punchy in their own right, but coupled with the ox cheek and jus, it was a flavoursome mouthful. The dish was perhaps a touch too sweet by the end but there are worse things.

Ox Cheek £16.50

 
Last but not least, a risotto of butternut squash and sage was no drab veggie option. The mascarpone was rich and creamy, the pine nuts threw in some texture whilst watercress gave a peppery element to the dish. A small amount of balsamic left enough of its acidic trail to prevent the dish from being too cloying and the rice had just enough bite. This is the second time I’ve had one of their risottos and both have been mentionable. 

Risotto £13.50

 

Not being able to finish my main course, I wasn’t about to order a dessert but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t eat any. A light cheesecake provided all the ooh’s and ahh’s that a dessert is ever going to get and a delicate coconut ice-cream was far more than just that.

 
 

 

 

I would put Number 16 into the brasserie category in the sense that it is high quality food and wine in relaxed surroundings. The kind of place that you go to for a special occasion but equally as often on a week night for a pre-theatre pick me up. It has a feel good factor in the air that you can’t manufacture and the locals can’t get enough.

 

   

You can read about my first visit to this restaurant here and how it was part of our Hogmanay 2013 here