Tony Macaroni City Centre17 John Street,
0141 552 6009
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
Whos laughing now?
Review published on 15/08/2011 © Sunday Herald
I met that Tony Macaroni once Mr Macaroni to you in a bar. It was a long, long time ago. Actually his name is Marini, Sep Marini, and he knows my cousin Paul. Anyway, Mr Marini told me he was going to open a restaurant in Glasgow and call it Tony Macaroni. What did I think of the name, he asked. I dont know if you have ever seen the for mash get Smash advert where the tin aliens roll about in laughter. Well, inside my head there were tin aliens doing exactly that. Terrible name, they roared.
Though to be fair I was more tickled by his mad plan to open it in possibly the darkest, dankest, abandon-all-hope location for restaurants in Glasgow the bottom end of Byres Road. Doom, doom, doom as the movie music goes. Of course I told him all that. If he thought my opinion had any merit whatsoever he disguised it exceptionally well. In fact as history now shows he completely ignored it. And he was completely right. And I was wrong.
The daft name may well rule him out of ever getting a Michelin star, but theres no denying who is laughing now. The west end site has apparently been a rip-roaring success and now, tonight, Im in yet another Tony Macaroni in possibly the second worst place for restaurants in Glasgow the backside of the Italian Centre. I cant tell you how many dreams I have seen crash and burn on this very spot. Six, seven? Goodness knows. Doom, doom, doom, then? Er, no.
Its barely 6.30pm on a Tuesday and the place is mobbed, as in full. There are couples, an older family group drinking wine and groups of youngish women eating pastas.
I have actually had to wait for this table. Why? Well, maybe something to do with this full-size ventre del diavolo pizza bianco. Its a white pizza therefore no tomato with broccoli, mozzarella and chilli. And its good. In fact its very good. The base is thin, the dough well fired and apparently Tony has hired a pizza expert from Italy, who has had the flour for these pizzas imported and lets the dough prove overnight in all the restaurants in the now fairly substantial Macaroni empire. It pays off. But thats not what makes this pizza special. What make it special is that like any pizza from the a la carte menu from noon until 6.30pm its less than a fiver.
Theres also a risotto funghi same price and a rigatoni al forno, also the same price. OK, the risotto would be a lot better with the addition of some salt, but its well made with a hint of wine and cheese. Some penne has sneaked into the rigatoni dish which is all cheese and cream and doesnt look slow baked in the oven for a minute, more flashed under the grill for a few seconds, but its a flavour-laden filler. Theres no sign of anything being cooked down to a price either.
I wait until after 6.30pm and order spigola al aspro, or pan-fried sea bass with lemon, from the full-price menu. Its fine. As is the Tony Macaroni burger made not with beef but with the pork and chilli filling from salsiccia. To my tastebuds the sausage is a bit tame. Theres not enough fennel seed and not enough chilli, but its certainly different and full of flavour.
The chips though are those typical pale, yellow-tinged, single-fry-from-a-bag things that Scottish restaurants churn out by the truck load. Awful. Why can so few restaurants make chips in this country?
So, where are we? Well, whats in a name? Quite a lot, it seems, if its catchy. Its not enough, though. The service has to be good and the food simply has to be plentiful and good value.
Most importantly, the pricing has to be aggressively right. In recession-hit Scotland, where there seems to be an Italian restaurant on every corner, thats a winning formula. As I said: who is laughing now?