Small plates with big taste
We’d wandered past Pesto numerous times; we didn’t know much about it but we knew it was huge (based in the old John Smith’s bookstore which became the Easy Internet cafe) yet always seemed to be busy!
But now we know – Pesto is a chain which started out in Manchester and Glasgow is their fourth and largest restaurant in a quickly-expanding chain, though it’s the only one in Scotland at the moment – you can read about the history here. They specialise in “Piattini”, which is simply “small plates” in Italian, or Italian tapas if you prefer (or even “Cicchetti” in, and around Venice). And regarding the size – it has 3 floors, 2 above ground and loads more seating in the basement too so it is indeed huge!
So we finally got a chance to visit for dinner and we brought along two friends to work through the menu! We ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio “Blush” Terre di passione veneto 2012 at £16.95 to share, which was a good basic rosé and went well with all the food.
Before our orders arrived a selection of bread and olives were brought to the table, which were all very nice though the bread ( sundried tomato bread aside) could’ve been fresher!
Bruschetta di rucola e gamberoni £4.50
A twist on the usual Italian classic- succulent moist prawns on a bed of rocket laid on crunchy bread – it had a very nice kick!
Calamari fritti £3.95
Calamari thin but firm, perhaps a bit too chewy but served with a tasty garlic alioli and presented with a lemon wedge which was put to good effect.
Polenta fritta con salsa piccante £3.45
Arrived looking like a game of Jenga! Polenta isn’t something you see too often on British menus though we’ve had it numerous times in eastern Europe so we were eager to try an Italian version – in this case formed into deep fried sticks. Polenta doesn’t really taste of much but they were nicely cooked in a crisp and crunchy coating, which was actually quite moreish and the salsa dip provided a welcome spicy tang.
Another dish that you don’t see too often in Glasgow Italians even though it’s ideal for the Glaswegian palate! A bit stodgy but another moreish one – deep-fried balls with gooey stringy cheese and saffron rice. Soft and lovely and quite toasty inside!
Insalata Caprese £3.95
Mozzarella and tomatoes with balsamic, fresh tomatoes, creamy clean mozzarella and just the right amount of “nip” from the vinegar. Simple yet effective veggie-friendly dish.
Patate Campagna £3.50
Country-style potatoes Sautéed with onion, garlic, fresh chilli and finished with sun-dried tomato and black olives. Soft and fluffy in the inside with a noticeably strong garlic taste and a nippy warming kick from the green chilli. Another tasty moreish dish.
Cosica di pollo imbottita £4.50
Chicken stuffed with Parma ham, sage, spinach and mozzarella cheese. Really tasty succulent chicken but could’ve done with more Parma ham.
Linguine al caroccio con gamberoni £4.50
Linguini pasta baked in parchment paper with king prawns, white wine, fresh chilli, garlic and chopped tomato. Warming kick from the chilli and tasty prawns again!
Pizzetta formaggio di capra £3.95
A baby pizza (pizzette?) with goats’ cheese, sweet caramelised onion and spinach. Thin, crispy and really tasty.
Peperoni ripieni £4.50
A halved pepper stuffed with all sorts of good stuff – pesto, mozzarella, onion, goat’s cheese again and a hint of chilli. Another tasty dish!
Lasagna al ragu £4.50
A bit stodgy, chewy and burnt on the bottom – the weakest of all the plates.
Coppa Mango £4.35
A really strong fruity topping – there was meant to be passion fruit but I could only taste mango but lots of it! Inside it comprised mostly smooth and creamy ice-cream with a thin but noticeable raspberry layer and soft biscuit base. A very nice sweet and creamy dessert with a bit of tartness and a good portion size.
Coppa Rossa £4.35
Similar to the above but with mascarpone ice-cream, blackcurrant & raspberry coulis and a sprinkling of white chocolate. Again this rested on a soft biscuit base. Another sweet sweet!
An Italian staple! It looked good and tasted great! Really lovely texture but not much taste of booze – if you like it like that then you may be disappointed.
A bit small portion-wise compared to the others but tasty again, comprising two “biscuits” made of chocolate (obviously), amaretti biscuits, almonds & orange liquer with a cute little jar of fresh cream. A good one for the chocolate lovers.
All-in-all a good-value Italian with plenty of choices, plenty of seating and friendly staff in a laid-back setting. The service was very good, with our waitress quick and friendly, and the place itself was clean and pleasant.
Well-located between both Queen St and Central stations and handy for buses and the subway too. Ideal for work lunches and nights out – I sense Pesto will be busy this Christmas!
Downsides? We visited in the evening and the bread wasn’t the freshest and sadly the lasagne wasn’t up to much. Also, although the toilets were clean they were a little cramped for such a large restaurant and there was only 1 hand dryer in the mens’ toilet.
UPDATE: The Glasgow branch of Pesto has now closed. For a list of Pesto’s other restaurants down south click here.