"All by myself, don’t wanna be, all by myself, anymore”.
It was inevitable that one day, I’d be humming that terrible Celine Dion song on the way to a restaurant review.
I’ve had a consistent stream of willing (nay, salivating) plus ones in 11 years of doing this job, but nobody was free to meet me for dinner on a recent Friday night in Glasgow.
Jobs, kids, washing hair, pathetic excuses. Anyway, it’ll be character building, I thought, as I tracked down this five-month-old pizza joint along Dumbarton Road.
Lunch somewhere anonymous would’ve been OK, but evening time is different for a self-conscious person like me, even in a low-key place like this.
They slipped un into a table-pour-deux, and I realised I’d forgotten to bring any reading material.
So I listened to the music, Orange Juice were playing, and stared at the wall – white tiles, house plants and a ghetto blaster, bereft of cassette, on a shelf – before checking out, behind me, the cute display of cardboard pizza boxes that kids had decorated in-house with felt-tip pens.
I pretended to rummage in my bag, looked at my phone, and tried not to draw the attention of the other diners.
There was the cosy young couple at the window seats, the family, who were celebrating their cowboy-outfitted-complete-with-spotty-’kerchief son’s seventh birthday, or the parents and grown-up daughter.
They all sneaked glances at me, probably wondering if I’d been stood up. Nae pals.
The menu came, and I ordered two starters (while mumbling something about being able to take away anything I couldn’t eat) and a Negroni (£7, Campari, vermouth and gin) with an orange wedge.
The aperitif sorted me out somewhat, as did the swift arrival of my spinach and goat’s cheese croquetas (£4), with a bunch of rocket on the side. There were four crispy coated and dense rusty bollards of mild fluffed-up cheese, with a pungent aioli on the side.
My other starter – chicken on a stick (£4) – was a deconstructed version of this, in that the wooden sticks came alongside the four bits of chook. Anyway, these consisted of panko crumbed breast meat, and there was a herby mayo to dip them in.
On my request, the waitress asked the kitchen if they could do me a special half and half pizza (£9), since I couldn’t decide which to choose. It was approved and signed off, yay.
They might not do it for you, but make your bottom lip wobble and look lonesome, like I did, and it’s probably more likely.
Their pizza toppings are classic, you won’t find pineapple or pulled pork.
The most out-there was probably the special of eight-hour harissa spiced lamb, and that was the winner of this yin and yang disc. It featured blobs of slack stewed meat, juicy sweet sugo from their imported Strianese San Marzano tomatoes, chevrons of yogurt, crumbles of feta and chopped coriander.
Across the border, there was number five, aka black olives, blobs of mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, a few anchovies, and a simmering seam of heat that made me have to blow my nose every couple of bites.
All of which was corralled by a satisfying Roman-statue-coloured sourdough crust, made from their imported Italian Polselli flour.
I couldn’t eat all of this feast. I’m sure my co-diners’ eyes would have boggled out of their heads if I had.
I got my leftovers boxed up, and finished with a slice of their salted caramel cheesecake (£4), which had a magnolia-coloured, milky smooth and sweet four-inch-high top and a malty crumbly bottom.
I couldn’t have visited a nicer neighbourhood restaurant on my own.
They brought an ice-cream sundae out to the boy, and they all sang happy birthday. I saw loads of regulars coming in, taking a seat at the bar, chatting to the owner and ordering their usual.
It made me a bit misty eyed, and I thought about who I’d like to bring here on my next visit.
Don’t wanna be, all by myself, anymore. Oh, shut up, Dion.