glasgow eats: the italian kitchen;

Have you guys been following the work of the wonderful cook, food writer and mental health advocate Ruby Tandoh since she appeared on The Great British Bake Off?

She was never somebody that I found much reason to pay attention to on the show, but the profile boost that it gave her – and the semi-regular Guardian column that followed – seems to have given her enough of a platform to be consistently amazing. She writes about eating disorder recovery and finding the joy in food, and regularly slams the sort of dangerous faddy diets designed to make a few people a lot of money and lots of women feel like shit about themselves via her frank and funny Twitter account.

(I also cannot wait to read Do What You Want, the mental health wellbeing zine she co-edited with her partner Leah Pritchard of Alimony Hustle, which is finally released on Friday.)

As a Sometimes Depressed Person who is also overweight, and who occasionally gets sucked into unhelpful rhetoric about food, I find it a tremendous comfort to have Tandoh in my corner. I have lost count of the number of times that I’ve read one of her tweets or an article that she has shared at exactly the right moment, when I’ve needed to be reminded that food is as much a pleasure as a fuel and that there is nothing healthy about equating certain foods with “good” or “bad” moral status. And I was particularly interested, last week, to see her talk about the link between carbohydrates and serotonin production, which is something I have never come across before and which further confirms my suspicions about restricted diet and weight loss.

Co-incidentally, two days later I enjoyed one of the nicest meals I have had out in Glasgow in a long, long time – which included six carbohydrates with dinner.

The Italian Kitchen - Glasgow Italian restaurant review
The Italian Kitchen - Glasgow Italian restaurant review

The Italian Kitchen first opened in 2003 at the junction of Ingram and Albion Streets in the Merchant City – the original site of the Mitchell Library, when it opened in 1877. The scaffolding currently surrounding the exterior of the building hides an everyday luxurious interior, newly refurbished for 2017.

The goal at The Italian Kitchen, according to owner Marco Mozzachiodi, is that guests compare the food and ambience to Italian restaurants in Italy, not Glasgow. To that end, the restaurant’s chefs use only the freshest and best ingredients, and prepare their own breads, dough, pastas, sauces and desserts daily on the premises.

The menu boasts a pretty staggering array of pizzas, pastas, risottos and meat and fish dishes, so our little group (Alison, Esther, Claire and Charlotte) were spoiled for choice. While we perused the menu, though, we were given bread and olives to nibble on – and then treated to a procession of the tasted, fluffiest, freshly-baked focaccia breads I have ever had. Topped with fresh rosemary, cherry tomatoes and roasted chillis, I couldn’t resist trying a piece of each. Even though I had eventually settled on the traditional bruschetta to start.

The Italian Kitchen - Glasgow Italian restaurant review - focaccia with fresh roasted chilli
The Italian Kitchen - Glasgow Italian restaurant review - bruschetta

Perhaps unsurprisingly after so much bread-based deliciousness, the bruschetta was almost… disappointing? I suspect it was because the bread component of the dish was a little anti-climactic, sodden with olive oil and hidden under a pile of fresh tomatoes, red onion and basil. What can I say, I just really, really love bread. Once I’d polished that off though I was able to savour a mountain of leftover toppings – the tangy/sweet tomatoes and balsamic glaze complimented each other perfectly, and I finished every bite.

For my main course, after considerable deliberation, I opted for the spaghetti con filetto: spaghetti with strips of fillet steak in a rich, spicy red wine and tomato sugo. I had a notion for spaghetti bolognese – fairly typical, as I don’t think there’s a time when I don’t have a notion for spaghetti bolognese – but you can’t really go to a restaurant and order something that you’re constantly making at home, right? Rich was right: this was a really full-flavoured and tasty dish, with tender sliced steak and spaghetti al dente, just the way I like it. Topped with mounds of freshly-grated parmesan (thanks to a waiter with no intention of scrimping) this was absolutely delicious – but impossible to finish after all that bread!

The Italian Kitchen - Glasgow Italian restaurant review - spaghetti con filetto
The Italian Kitchen - Glasgow Italian restaurant review - spaghetti con filetto

Thoroughly stuffed, after dinner we sat on bar stools around the restaurant’s huge pizza oven where we were given a ravioli-making session (and fresh, tasty samples to take away!). After the break, it was time for dessert…

…which was where I made my only mistake. My couple of scoops of ice cream were the perfect finishing touch (unsurprising – later, when Marco and I bonded over our Italian names and Scottish accents, he told me his mother was a Crolla), but I couldn’t help but look at my pals’ beautifully presented portions of crème brulée and tiramisu with sheer envy. I’ve never actually had tiramisu, so I plan to remedy that on my next visit…

…which has already been booked. If you’ve asked me for a restaurant recommendation this week, you’ll already know that I can’t stop raving about The Italian Kitchen – and with me hardly a stranger to Italian food I promise that’s not easy-won praise. If you’re after really tasty, authentic Italian cuisine in delightful surroundings, I urge you to check this place out.

The Italian Kitchen - Glasgow Italian restaurant review - ice cream
The Italian Kitchen - Glasgow Italian restaurant review

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I was treated to a meal at The Italian Kitchen for the purposes of a review, but all opinions are my own and unbiased.