Delicious Italian fare in Glasgow's secret haven

Scott Mullen - Business7

DEEP in the bowels of Glasgow’s bustling streets there is a secret that is almost invisible to the naked eye. Hidden discreetly beneath the city centres Nelson Mandela Place is a real hidden gem Apart from specials board out in the street, there is little to give away that there is anything of note beneath your feet.

Walking down the staircase there is a vibrant atmosphere with an open kitchen next to the bar. After a short wait we were taken through the busy restaurant and seated. It is clear that tables haven’t been crammed in anywhere, allowing diners a bit of privacy while tucking into their   authentic Italian dishes. To start we ordered the Mozzarella Fritta and the Parma ham.

The presentation isn’t flashy or overly flamboyant, but don't let that make you think that no effort has gone into the dish.

The mozzarella arrived deep fried in small balls with a fresh tomato and basil sauce, while the parma ham was complimented perfectly with figs and sweet honey After we had polished off the starters and the tasty focacce bread it was almost time for the main course to arrive.

We ordered Ziti al Forno, a pasta bake served with tomato sugo, beef and pork meatballs topped with mozzarella, and Pollo con Porclni, a roasted chicken breast topped with a creamy mustard sauce.

The ziti al forno was cooked well, with a deceptively large portion while the fresh cherry tomatoes added a nice touch.

The portion with the chicken was again ample, with sauteed rosemary potatoes topping things off.

If you are in any lit state for a dessert, I would recommend trying the cheesecake. It was one of the best I have ever had ln Glasgow Thick, creamy and with a crurmbly base.

It is hard to find any criticism for Amarone. The atmosphere really brings the place to life, with the odd rumbling of a train beneath your feet as well as the ankles walking past the ceiling-high stained-glass windows above, makes you feel that you are hiding in a secret haven.

This secret should definitely be shared.

Chic, contemporary New York Italian

Mark Fisher - The Herald

Italian restaurants come in two models. There is the local family favourite where the waiters say cheeky things to the bambinos and you can guess the menu without looking. You will know it by the badly painted mural of a Roman amphitheatre and the shrine to Inter Milan. Then there is the upmarket Italian where pizzas are frowned upon and you're considered frivolous if you have fewer than 16 courses.Both have their place, but what's missing is somewhere in the middle. This is where Amarone comes in. A basement restaurant with high-level stained-glass windows letting you see the ankles of passers-by on Buchanan Street, it offers pizza and pasta standards in an environment where you can imagine clinching a business deal.

The Italy it reflects is that of the Milan catwalk - cool, calm and collected - rather than that of the small-town trattoria. More properly, it's Italy filtered through the world of Tony Soprano on a night out with Carmela, all sophisticated New York jazz, arty black and white photos and staff in muted burgundy uniforms. Very Glasgow, in other words. Even the ubiquitous football photo, a large monochrome victory snap, has a touch of grainy class.

This comes at a price, however. The service, although brisk and efficient, is restrained to the point of indifference. They're so busy being discreet, they don't have time to be friendly.By aiming for what it regards as "educated diners", Amarone risks seeming pretentious, but its claims for superiority are at least justified by the food.At first glance, the menu looks very familiar - favourites such as bruschetta, seafood risotto, tomato pasta and pizza Napoletana are all present. But it doesn't stop there. Also included in the a la carte list are dishes you won't find in Pizza Hut, among them sea bream, chargrilled veal cutlet and Scottish sirloin steak.

Even when it comes to the pizzeria staples, there's invariably a twist. The pizza fungi, for example, has none of the indifferent sliced mushrooms you usually get, but succulent sauteed chunks of wild mushrooms on a crisp base. Despite her hoping for a deep-crust style pizza, my 13-year-old daughter wolfed it down happily, eating all but a final slice before she was full.This was after having put away several slices of our focaccia starter, commenting as she did so on the well-judged combination of caramelised red onions, cacciocavallo cheese and fresh, uncooked spinach. A mouthful of all those ingredients was a perfect match for the light and crunchy base.Leaving her to the pizza, I branched out with a melanane millefiore for my main course. Beautifully presented, it was a tower of aubergine slices and biscuity pastry served alongside a row of asparagus spears, baby tomatoes on the vine and, unusually, mashed potato. If it was let down by the dryness of the roasted aubergine and the dominance of the pastry, it was a very adventurous, multi-textured dish all the same.

And full marks for the tiramisu, a much abused pudding, here rich, moist and custard-like and well worth holding back for. My daughter, meanwhile, was equally satisfied with the Italian ice cream topped with Moreno cherries.

All it needs is service with a bigger smile.


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