Paesano….. West End. 03-05-2018
Like Naples, Glasgow has a fine history with pizza pie. Unlike Naples the Scottish version was more akin the outside of a Mother’s Pride Plain Loaf spread with cheap shitty tomato purée, a sprinkling of mock mozzarella and a sliced mushroom finally being baptised in chip shop batter then deep fried to within an inch of cardiac arrest before rising, dripping in oil, known as The Pizza Crunch. Help ma Boab…….
It all changed a couple of years back when Paul Stevenson took the Italians, now into third and fourth generations, here in Scotland to task. I should add that Paul and I are very close friends and have been for as long as The Rolling Stones have been making music. If his Pizza was awful, I just wouldn’t write about it.
For tonight’s visit I’m with the original review gang, Debbie, Clair and Sarah. Feels like a Spice Girls reunion tour with Boyzone…….that’s me.
Paesano serves genuine Neapolitan Pizza every bit as good as those being served in Da Michele, Brandi and Trianon to name some of the greats. The pizza bases are crafted from their secret recipe sour dough and cooked in proper wood burning brick ovens for less than two minutes. As if in a nod to his Scottish heritage Paul imported ovens from Italy manufactured by the specialist company ‘Cunto’, you couldn’t make it up. The Pizzaiolo are from Naples, fully trained in their craft and earned their pizza wings before coming to Glasgow. In a second tipping of his hat, this time to the land of tomatoes and olive oil, Paul can often be heard switching accents mid sentence but only for Italian words or phrases such as spaghetti, lasagne, Fior di Latte and mozzarella, just a like a mamma used to say.
Whilst he’s not throwing the dough in the kitchen Paul has left nothing to chance; every step, every process, every detail from design, ingredients, method and service have been meticulously thought through and set in stone, or in the West End restaurant, highly polished Italian marble.
The ingredients, from the flour, tomatoes, cheeses, sausage, olive oil and everything else are all top quality, as you would see in Naples. No pre-grated plastic Danish mozzarella here.
The service is fast, smooth and very efficient, so many smiling faces you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a Cheech and Chong movie. Katie Stevenson, Paul’s youngest daughter, is running the floor tonight with such professionalism, remarkable for someone so young.
The menu is short, there are a few side dishes which you can order as ‘starters’ if desired or as side dishes as stated. Burrata, olives, salads, artichokes and balsamic onions all worthy of a mention. ‘I have never tried the ricotta’, note to self for my next visit.
There are nine pizzas on the current menu with another couple on the specials notice hanging on the walls. There’s an option to change your mozzarella from Fior di Latte to Mozzarella di Bufala, add toppings or even sprinkle with fresh chillies, they are most accommodating.
Your order is taken, a note scribbled on your paper placemat/menu to avoid mistakes and bang, two or three minutes later a piping hot pizza is in front of you, still bubbling. I had one of tonight’s specials; Salsiccia Picante with Fior di Latte and Mushrooms (why not funghi?) to which I’ve added tomatoes. Absolutely perfect, awesome even, as were everyone else’s. By the time you finish you can’t but help wonder how they manage to sell them so cheaply, seriously they’re for nothing.
The place is buzzing, busy, laughter and lots of oohs and aahs.
Neapolitan pizza are the originals; soft, moist, colourful and bursting with sun-ripened flavour unlike the pizza from Rome or NYC which are thinner, crisper and a different product altogether, although very tasty eating too when served in places like Grimaldi’s or Juliana’s in New York, I’ve never eaten pizza in Rome. Paul jokingly refers to the Roman style as a biscuit but they both have a place in this world. After all, would you have a Ferrari or a Lamborghini?
We couldn’t visit Paesano without finishing with one of their ‘old school’ soft ice creams. An oyster with a wee flake and a squirt of raspberry sauce, the bollocks.
In the short time since Paesano opened in Miller Street they have firmly established themselves as the best in Scotland, perhaps in the UK. Now with Great Western Road performing to the same exacting standards one wonders where’s next?
Many other Pizzerias have since opened, and closed, in the wake of Paesano but none come even halfway to their standards in pizza, décor or service. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I’m told.
Below is a quick interview with Katie, the General Manager, shot on iPhone. Thank you to Katie for her time and for being such a good sport when put on the spot.