Panevino1075 Argyle Street,
0141 221 1136
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
A true Italian classic
Review published on 24/06/2013 © Sunday Herald
From outside, Panevino in Glasgows Argyle Street, does not look instantly attractive. A quick glance at its steely, glassy frontage and you might mistake it for an extension of the ugly Tesco store next door.
Inside, its a potentially awkward, narrow, two-storey space, with ground-floor tables squeezed around a curved bar. Its saving grace, however, is that its lavishly appointed in a typically Italian style. From ancient Rome until the present day, the Italian sense of the aesthetic has been on display. Down the centuries, Italians have plundered Tuscanys Carrara quarries for monumental stone, and used it for everything from beautiful statues, handsome palazzi and imposing monuments to opulent bars. In Turin, for instance, landmark bars, such as Caffè San Carlo and Baretti e Milano, are so handsomely appointed as to be museums in their own right.
Panevino isnt in that league, but in typically Italian fashion it has been kitted out with little expense spared. So it has the swanky smartness of a contemporary Italian hotel, with much marble cladding, and professionally turned wood. This creates a feeling of permanence, of owners who handsomely invest in their enterprise for the future, of people who like to do things in style.
Panevino calls itself an enoteca, the Italian concept of a wine bar with food. It has one of those expensive machines for storing open bottles of wine at exactly the right temperature, so you wont be sipping wine thats been open for too long, a hazard of wine by the glass elsewhere. Its Italy-centric wine list is extensive, so paradise for oenophiles and those who want to take advantage of the mini-wine tutorials of a flyte of wine, thats five 50 ml tasters.
On the food front, theres more emphasis on authenticity than in many other Italian eateries. A selection of breads are home baked (the focaccia is a treat) and salumi are discerningly sourced; for instance you get San Daniele ham rather than the more quotidian Parma ham, and there are several interesting DOP cheeses of distinguished pedigree to be sampled. Your mozzarella will be made with buffalo milk and have a creamy heart (burrata), and you can compare and contrast the difference between pecorino cheeses of various geographical origins, or see what happens to a cheese when you age it in the fresh lees left over from Barolo wine. If you order a spaghetti alla carbonara, its made not with bacon, but in the Roman style, using guanciale (cured pigs cheek). As you can see, Panevino takes its sourcing seriously and goes way beyond the all-too-familiar lazy norm.
We ate, and enjoyed two antipasti a baked ricotta flavoured with lemon zest and dried tomatoes, and scallops roasted on the shell with salty anchovy butter then split a portion of rather wonderful tagliatelle al ragú. The pasta, golden with egg, was patently homemade and with that all-essential springy bounce. Its oxtail, beef, veal and pork ragú, made not with a standard mince but strands of slowly cooked meat, was what your Italian Nonna would cook up on a good day.
The prosciutto wrapping on a main course special of monkfish, stuffed with capers, might have been crisped up a bit more in the oven, but the fish itself was spot on and the accompanying potatoes, roasted in rosemary, most enticing. Given that so many restaurants are so wedded to last-minute cooking, it was a pleasure to see an eight-hour braised classic osso buco of veal on the menu. It was faithfully cooked too and let down only by a risotto Milanese where the rice was cooked marginally too soft.
Desserts were better than I had expected, a hot cannelloni filled with pears and walnuts in caramel sauce, and a crema di mascarpone, ricotta, blackberries and orange zest, topped with raspberries, blackberries and toasted almond.
When so many Italian restaurants plough familiar furrows, Panevino is quietly upmarket, and without being scarily different or too pricey, it has gone for more genuine dishes. Heres hoping this encourages its competitors to up their game accordingly.
Review published on 20/01/2014 © Sunday Herald
We havent booked and its very busy, so when were invited to climb on to some high seats at the bar we do so with relief that were getting in. There are already people absolutely squeezed into all the low-slung nooks and softly lit crannies of this glassy, shiny dolce vita-style restaurant.
Just feet behind us at the door, there are non-stop whoops of ciao, ciao and bwon-a-say-rah plus loads of mwah, mwah kissing as the staff loudly greet people they know in Italian then English. Frankly? Being of the grumpy persuasion I could do without this hoopla. But other customers are not only laughing, but also enjoying the whole fun and excitable atmosphere.
I scan the menu, making an acerbic observation that were now apparently selling salami by the slice in Scotland. Mamma mia. My mumping is ignored as the waiters directly across the bar counter from us offer tasters of Ventricina salami selling at £2.20 for three slices and various cheeses.
We plump for a not-much-bigger than a sugar cube lump of formaggio ubriaco, or drunken cheese, or cheese mixed with wine, depending on how you style it, at £1.80. Its from Treviso, I think. Theres chestnut honey to drip from a wooden server over the cheese and fresh bread for the salami slices and Ive got to reluctantly admit Im warming slightly to all this. Its good.
Now wines being passed over to Debs to taste and somehow sitting at the bar, draught aside, noisy and volatile greetings behind us aside too, seems to have been the smart thing to do. So far though weve seen nothing that a good deli couldnt do. Thats until the focaccia arrives. Ive got to be honest here and say I did already mutter: It better be a bloody good focaccia for £7.50.
Turns out it is. A creamy dough is crisp on the base, bubbly on the top and heaped with tiny tomatoes which have been dressed deliciously in lemon and basil. On to all this is tossed rocket in oil and salt. Its brilliant and I hoover it up, though it would be going too far to say theres a smile creeping across this leathery old coupon.
A tagliatelle ragu, a linguine vongole and spaghetti meatballs arrive next. Were back in familiar territory here. Or are we? The spaghetti meatballs are nothing to write home about; heavy, the meat being a different temperature from the sugo, which is too sharp for my taste anyway.
The vongole is good enough though where do you get fresh vongole in this country? I can never find the little clams anywhere. But the linguine ragu is something else. Long ago, when every student who opened a can of chopped tomatoes and dumped it into a pound of mince thought he or she was making a bolognese this was actually what they were imitating. The deep, dark powerfully flavoured ragu from Bologna. And here its a proper ragu of beef, oxtail and veal in strips, not minced, with a rich meaty flavour that clings to the linguine strands and makes this one bowlful a whole meal.
Its been impossible not to be aware of the constant stream of people popping their heads through the door and being turned away because the restaurant is full. This place is hard to miss from outside with its big glass exterior smeared with rain twinkling from the lights.
If old-school Italian restaurants have proved anything recently it is that the warmth, charm and familiar comfort food they provide has been what people have wanted during the long, cold years of the recession. Panevino is new school. Its look is brighter, brasher, like you would find in a restaurant in Rome, say. And its menu is a bit more ambitious with bolder sourcing.
Is this a good thing? Yes. Why not?