“Oh, this is the night, it’s a beautiful night. And we call it bella notte.
Look at the skies, they have stars in their eyes On this lovely bella notte.”
Excerpt from “Bella notte” , from The Lady and the Tramp, Walt Disney, 1955
When I announced to my friends I was going on a date with an Italian, to write a review of Oro Glasgow, instantly images of the famous Bella Notte scene at Tony’s restaurant from Lady and the Tramp were conjured up. A week later, off to the Southside of Glasgow we went, hand in hand, hopeful we would be served more than leftover meatballs in the back alley…
Oro (the recently renamed and revamped Bella Napoli) has been a Shawlands institution since 2001, gathering praise from locals and visitors over the last 17 years. Their most recent accolade came with the restaurant being named among the top 70 in the world at the ‘Italian Food Oscars’ in October 2018.
We arrived to a warm and friendly greeting and a bustling interior. All around us were the sounds of cocktail shakers, forks clattering, and people chatting over their meals. Everything set against a bold, yet stylish, decor scheme.
Now, for the good stuff: the food, the drinks and THE DATE. Personally I needed something to calm my nerves and opted for a large glass of one of the house reds; a rich and silky cherry flavoured Primitivo, while the Italian went for a pint of Moretti (Can you tell who is the lady and who is the tramp yet?). After some playful small talk, I opted for the Grilled Octopus to start, while the Italian took the safer route, and ordered the Aubergine Alla Parmigiana.
I put my guilt about eating octopus aside for the evening (they are very clever, it feels wrong…). I really enjoyed the textures of tender grilled octopus leg, the salty parma ham crisp, and the flavours all married together with a red wine glaze. The Aubergine Alla Parmigiana (sliced aubergine, layered with tomato sauce and parmesan) was baked to perfection, and topped with a pesto that was bursting with flavour. It was met with praise such as “surprisingly light”, and “lovely layers”, from the Italian.
In between the starter and the main, I had a quick wander downstairs to check out the huge gold pizza oven which was impressive, and the very exciting shoe shine machine (love a gadget me).
Back at the table, the date was going well. Conversation and laughter were flowing when the wonderful waitress brought our mains. For me it was always gonna be pizza, given owner Domenico Crolla’s extensive pizza art credentials and awards. Never one for convention though, I went rogue and ordered the White Clam Pizza. A delicious blend of clams, in a creamy white garlic sauce, finished with parmesan and fresh rocket. I decided to hold the rocket as I believe it is inherently evil. The Italian went for another classic; Tagliatelle Bolognese, a delicate balance of beef simmered in a rich tomato sauce and swaddled in tagliatelle ribbons.
The pizza was fresh out the oven, brimming with clams, and again, surprisingly light and packed with flavour. It would seem my fears about the liberal amounts of white sauce and parmesan were misplaced. The Italian proclaimed his bolognese to be “juicy, with hints of fresh basil”. However, that was all we got as he ate in a second and grinned contently, surely a good sign.
I did not finish all my pizza (strategic space-saving for dessert) but I did get it boxed up for later. I know, I shouldn’t extol the values of next day cold pizza on a food blog, but it is so good, do it!
Moving on to “Dolce” (Italian for dessert). We deliberated for a time over the Oro signature donuts, which sounded wonderful, the Pizza Dolce , or something lighter to share. The Pizza Dolce looks like a margherita pizza, but uses strawberry salsa for the sauce and replaces mozzarella with mascarpone and marshmallow cheese… amazing. But in the interests of stomach safety and avoiding a food coma we went for a lighter option: Sicilian Cannoli with two spoons.
The crispy pastry shell, filled with sweet Sicilian ricotta and chocolate got the best response of the night from the Italian who crowned it “the best patisserie in Glasgow”. I had to agree, the rich ricotta cream, chocolate hit, and the candied orange peel running through it was a lovely citrus surprise, and really pulled the sweet flavours together on my palate.
You could blame the wine, Moretti or the romance, but Oro really did live up to the gold standard of service and food which the restaurant is named after – did we mention “Oro” means “Gold” in Italian? I would definitely recommend Oro to anyone wanting some top notch Italian food in Glasgow and top notch service to match.
“What about the rest of the date?” I hear you all clutching your pearls in anticipation… Well, we left with full stomachs, fuller hearts, and wandered into the “Bella Notte” with stars in our eyes.