FRANKLY, I’m down a tenner on snacks alone: fried macaroni, preserved fennel and the obligatory sourdough even before my finger hovers over the words salumi and six quid and I raise my eyebrows.
Six pounds, I’ll ask, sending a big fat question mark bouncing through the harsh afternoon sun straight towards the chirpy, cheery waitress. Boo-yah.
“Made here,” she’ll reply without blinking. “In the kitchen. By Dean himself.”
Ah, I’ve actually no idea who Dean is, but later he’ll come shooting out the kitchen to silently deliver my affogato with malted barley, chocolate and caravan espresso (£7).
I’ll still be sitting at that long table, squinting at the tourists touching base with the glorious dead in the Necropolis up the hill there whilst idly chatting to Davey, top turnkey from the cells at Glasgow Sheriff Court and Noreen who have wandered in for a coffee.
There will still be plenty of waiting staff around and Dean’s elegant wife herself, because this is a mom ’n’ pop shop, will be yards away. So I’m assuming Dean’s simply wanting to nosey at who keeps asking all these bloody annoying questions.
Olives, I’d mentioned to another waitress – Lauren – an engineering student. Yeah, we chatted too.
“Ooh, it’s good to be asked questions,” she said, as we both peered mystically at rolls of hand-made agnolotti stuffed with Mossgiel farm ricotta, dark, chocolately toasted sunflower seeds scattered atop, ying and yang sauces in green and cream jostling for space in a ceramic bowl. All delivering powerfully seductive, fragrances and flavours. Not an olive to be seen though.
Funnily enough, there were none of the promised pickles with that pork fennel salumi earlier but it was so delicious, eaten with the bread, drizzled in a spikey Le Ferre olive oil that I didn’t mention it.
“What? The bread was extra!” Mrs Mackenna will exclaim later when I’m recounting how silkily soft and licoricey it was to eat.
It is extra, and a tough piece of fennel, which grew like weeds last time I raised some myself, preserved alla kimchi, was another four bangers on top of that.
Yet, the quality is blindingly obvious. And word comes back from the kitchen on Olivegate. The olives apparently are blended in to the green sauce. Ha! They always say that, chefs.
Onwards: Pappardelle – Dexter beef – Corra Lynn next and at least 80% of that annoyingly artful five-word menu description merits explanation.
Dexter, I’m told, is the name of the cow, no seriously. Corra Lynn is not a waterfall, Vera’s sister or a controversial B&B in Whitby but a cheddar-like cheese from Lanarkshire.
You knew that though, didn’t you?
It’s thrown together, proper ragu-like, with beef that has the translucence that comes with the very best handling and cheesey creamy flavours embracing that handmade pasta as it uncoils lazily. Damn. I like this too.
Now, I spent so much on the snacks and primi that I didn’t order a secondi course. Yes, this young couple are indeed inspired by Italy, but the initial food is so impressive, so promising that I stop a waitress and order glazed Dexter short rib too. Poor Dexter, he gave his all.
Picture the blocky outline of a good fillet, so brown it’s black, encrusted with stuff, in juices, a sweetness to the charred leek on top, meat that can be sliced effortlessly and enjoyed completely. This is it. Crikey.
And that affogato? Ice cream with espresso, the always-favourite dessert of Giuseppina Salvatore: aka my mother.
But what have they done to it? Malted barley, crumbly bits, swoopy swirls, the coffee pooled in the middle? Honestly? They’ve added texture, depth and it’s wow. Though, I think the ice-cream should be that bit colder to boost it on the refreshing-ometer. But hang on? Maybe that’s actually why the chef had to rush it to the table himself. Had it sat at the pass for a few seconds too long? Whatever. I would have this again. All of it again.
28-32 Cathedral Square, Glasgow
Menu: Young chef and wife team arrive from London, inspired by Italy, set up shop in Glasgow serving hand-made agnolotti, beef pappardelle, glazed short rib and great salumi. Good stuff. 4/5
Service: A week or so since opening and there’s a still a bubbly enthusiasm about the place, warm, chatty and helpful. 4/5
Atmosphere: I sat outside on a sunny day, on a sloping courtyard, but this restaurant is in Cathedral House which when the rain falls offers a slightly awkward multi-level dining room. 4/5
Price: Sometimes it’s blindingly obvious why it costs a little more. This is one of those times. Small pastas £9 plus, large hit £18, mains without sides, £14 and up. 4/5
Food: From the delicate porcini fried macaroni to the hand-made salami, the excellent pappardelle and agnolotti, to the short rib this is very good stuff. Should be a major hit. 9/10