Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Paperino's, Byres Road, Glasgow
The original Paperino's Italian restaurant was (and still is) located in Sauchiehall Street in the centre of Glasgow - it has been a popular eating place there for over 15 years. Paperino's West End, however, opened in that part of Glasgow in 2005.
Byres Road is the busy, main thoroughfare in the West End of the city and is close by are the University of Glasgow, the Botanic Gardens at Kelvingrove (with its newly refurbished Kibble Palace) and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (now Scotland's most popular tourist attraction). A useful landmark for Paperino's is that it is opposite Hillhead Underground station.
Byres Road is a cosmopolitan area of Glasgow, with a mix of students, lecturers, medical staff (from the Western Infirmary), many of whom live nearby. There are many popular bars and restaurants to cater for their needs as well as those travelling from further afield, using the many good transport links.
The owners of Paperino's are Stefano and Sandro Giovanazzi, who are from a long line of Italian restaurateurs in Glasgow. It stretches back to before the First World War, when their grandfather, Giovanni Giovanazzi, emigrated from the Italian province of Parma. La Parmigiana on Great Western Road opened in 1978 and became renowned for high quality Italian dining. The philosophy was always to use the best quality, fresh produce in the well justified belief that quality ingredients will create the best dishes. Paperino's follows the same high standards, though it has a less formal atmosphere and menu than the earlier restaurant.
Without a doubt, Paperino's West End must have the smartest frontage of all the many restaurants and cafeterias on Byres Road - see the illustration at the top of the page. Inside, it gradually dawns that it is also huge. Not that it is in an any way overwhelming - due to the many partitions, corners and walls winding their way to the rear. But there are 185 seats in total, including the upstairs mezzanine. Yet the impression, once you are sitting down, is of a more intimate ambience. The decor is restful too, with only a few hints of Italy (such as a few huge but empty bottles of Italian wine) in the modern furniture and paintings on the wall.
With Paperino being the Italian equivalent of Donald Duck, it seems fitting that the restaurant named after a cartoon character should go out of its way to be "family friendly". There is a special children's menu and a baby changing area, for example. And the friendly staff are sure to make a fuss of the youngsters - during my visit, a very young customer in a high chair at a nearby table seemed delighted with all the attention! Definitely a customer of the future...
The Giovanazzi brothers believe emphatically that all their food should be freshly cooked from the best ingredients. So whether it's a pizza or a steak, the chefs prepare each item from scratch as the orders reach the kitchen. That may mean that customers have to wait a little longer - but who complains, if they get a piping hot, freshly prepared dish?
Like many Italian restaurant's, the menu at Paperino's is huge. There is even a long list of starters, ranging from mozzarella sticks, deep fried with breadcrumbs and served with a spicy tomato sauce, to zucchini fritti (courgettes in beer batter, deep fried), served with tomato dip. There's minestrone soup, of course and Bruschetta’s – toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic, with a choice of toppings such as plum tomato and basil. In the end, my lunch companion and I both opted for the stuffed mushrooms. The deep fried breadcrumbs were deliciously crisp and the plump mushrooms and vegetarian filling were an excellent contrast. Accompanied by a fresh, crisp salad (not too much dressing, thankfully), this was a good start to our meal.
I have to confess that the waitress had to come back a few times before I had made a choice from the extended menu of pastas, fish, meat and pizzas. The classic Lasagne al Forno almost sounded pedestrian beside Pappardelle Monteprandone (home-made pesto, ruccola, sundried tomatoes and mascarpone) or Spaghetti porcini e pancetta (porcini mushrooms with Italian bacon and cherry tomato’s & garlic oil). My lunch companion (the Scottish singer Moira Kerr) went for the Gamberoni all'Italiana (king prawns cooked with white wine, garlic and lemon, served with rice). This proved to be a good choice - really large prawns in a tangy sauce that was declared to be "delicious".
Paperino's is first and foremost a pizzeria, so from the wide choice available, I eventually decided to try the Quattro Formaggi version (with mozzarella, dolcelatte, parmigiano and emmental cheeses). I seem to have used the word "huge" on a number of occasions in this review - and here it is again... Well over 12" in diameter, almost overlapping the plate. Moira was just back from a singing engagement at the Sarasota Highland Games in Florida, and was used to US-size portion sizes, but she was as impressed as I was! My initial thought was "I'm never going to finish this". But the thin base (and a sharp knife) and the flavoursome cheeses on top kept me going - and going. Not quite a clean plate at the end - but a creditable performance I thought!
After such an ample main course, we might have been forgiven for opting out on a dessert. But mindful that readers of this review might want to know what was available - we decided to "have a look at the menu". That was our undoing, of course. Moira went for Triple Choc Fudge Cake - yes, Triple Chocolate - a decadent chocolate sponge filled with rich chocolate sauce, topped with more chocolate and served with ice-cream. It was as delightful as it sounds! My "Gelato alla Vaniglia" (3 scoops of vanilla ice-cream) sounded almost pedestrian by comparison, but the waitress suggested the optional Amerene Cherry topping. You can see from the picture that it also looks a good as it tasted. Why is it that Italian ice-cream, even plain vanilla, tastes better than any other? And those delicious cherries - what a topping finish to a meal...
For current menu and prices, see www.paperinos.co.uk.
Paperino's West End is at 227 Byres Road in Glasgow's West End, across the road from Hillhead underground station. There are no parking meters in this area (so far), which can be a blessing or a hindrance, depending on your luck! You can make a reservation by telephone (0141 334 3811) or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is more information also at their Web site www.paperinos.co.uk.
You will have gathered that Paperino's made a huge impression on me in many ways. This is not the place for small portions and "nouvelle cuisine". But you can't beat good hearty portions of freshly prepared, flavoursome Italian food, prepared by experts and served in relaxed surroundings in a popular part of Scotland's largest city.
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