Celino’s, Glasgow - Restaurants in Glasgow | s1play.com

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620-624 Alexandra Parade,

0141 554 0523

Price Rating: 2

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Price Ratings

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££ – mid-price
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Everybody’s talkin’

Review published on 20/02/2012 © Sunday Herald

One of my sisters used to work in here. She bumped into Nat in the city of Isernia in bella Italia last month. Or so she has just told me by text message. Actually, I don’t exactly know who Nat is, though he’s surely the boss. Or certainly he was years ago when my sister worked here and Celino’s was more deli and greengrocer than cafe and restaurant. My chum Kevin has also mentioned a Nat a good few times over dinner tonight, in between popping up and down to chat to various people and even, at one point, wandering around behind the counter, like he runs the place. Sheesh.

Me? I’m feeling very much like a wallflower in the dance of life. Especially with all the “Mr McKennas” flying about. Mr McKenna, sir, is everything OK with your salsiccia con polenta? Mr McKenna, sir, how was your lasagne? I’m expecting a “Mr McKenna is looking especially handsome tonight” at any moment. Then I’ll know it was double-strength prosecco they used to flavour my rice.

Who is this Mr McKenna, you’re no doubt wondering. Well, it’s not me. I’m a Mac. Not that I give a hoot for the spelling because I know how I got it. My sisters and I are Mackennas because my father in a mad fit of Scottish nationalist, er madness, inserted an extra “a” into our birth certificates. Before that the spelling was the same as Kev’s across the table. Yes, the semi-Irish galoot and newspaper columnist sitting across from me is the same Mr McKenna who is getting all the love tonight. In fact I was halfway through my ravioli with pecorino and a quarter-way through his polenta – well, he does talk a lot – when a couple of women came over for the long-lost Kev thing. I took it as an opportunity to quietly finish what I had started, namely that very freshly baked focaccia with salt and rosemary.

Curiously they also mentioned Nat. There’s undoubtedly an everybody-knows-everybody feel in here. Everybody apart from me. Obviously I know the other Mr McKenna, though I don’t really want to talk about Kev just now. Not while I’m polishing off this ravioli (nice butter and sage dressing, incidentally). But it was because of Kev that, earlier tonight, I found myself parking on Alexandra Parade and sliding into this two-seater table between the deli counter and the main dining room action. “You’ve got to go to Celino’s,” he had texted a week or so ago. “Real buzz about it these days.”

There is. Though I should have said this is an old-school Italian. It doesn’t actually have checked red tablecloths and a guy called Nat in the kitchen stirring the sugo, but it feels like it does. And it certainly does have The Godfather theme tune playing over the sound system. It’s bursting with customers too, on a Thursday night – perhaps because it’s pre-theatre prices all night, though I don’t think so. OK, the menu won’t blow your socks off, but they do a decent lasagne. Made on the premises. Plenty layers of pasta in it. I know this because I ate most of Kevin’s.

My pork fillet with potent rice and cream was tender and they make their own tiramisu too – which I can heartily recommend as being of the proper, punchy, dripping-with-coffee type. I’m disappointed the frittata con spaghetti that’s sitting on the deli counter isn’t on the menu. It looks good. As do the big, fat arancini, or rice balls filled with mozzarella. But this is one of these atmosphere places. Good value, good feel. The bottom line is Kevin knows Nat and my sister knows Nat and everybody knows everybody else who knows Nat while I know Jack.

Hey, that’s the story of my life. But it makes for a nice, friendly restaurant.