An editor once asked me to start rating restaurants out of five according to how dog-friendly they were.
Two points might mean, we allow them in, but there will be no petting permitted, and for a five, you might anticipate free pupper sausages and a floof-ing session. After a few weeks of phone calls about water bowls and treat availability, the idea was shelved.
However, it’s similarly difficult to rate ambience, since diners supply so much of that themselves.
Thanks to an excitable crowd of mixed ages, the new Sugo Pasta, from the team behind Glasgow’s Paesano Napolitana pizza restaurants on Miller Street and Great Western Road, is suffused with it.
At our communal table, we’re seated next to a twentysomething with bubblegum coloured hair, but, in my eyeline, there’s also a glam couple with boutique bags and a family with small children, who are cross-legged on the pew-like seating.
At the back of this no-bookings place, there’s also a large L-shaped open kitchen, so you can watch the frenetic flour-dusted brigade making the fresh pasta.
Along with background music and canteen-like acoustics, the set up makes for a clattery decibel assault on my jug ears. I had to ask my waiter to repeat the sentence, “Sorry, but the clams are off the menu today”, three times, before I could hear something other than glam, flim-flam, Fat Sam’s Grand Slam. Some diners love this sound level – again, ambience – others might struggle.
As far as food goes, they recommend one and a half of the selection of regional pasta dishes per person, so we obediently went for three, as well as a couple of sides.
The latter came first. We’d ordered a ramekin of nutty cerignola olives (£2.50), with ten of these fruits, like glossy beads in a golden pool of extra virgin olive oil. We also had a bowl of their summery panzanella (£3.50), which featured a vinegary dressing, half moons of cucumber, lipstick red quarters of tomato and pieces of red pepper, as well as a handful of porous and olive oil saturated croutons.
The best of the three pasta options that arrived next was a whorl of Sicilian chitarra (£7) – aka spaghetti’s thicker and squarer cousin (we all have one) – topped by a flurry of grated ricotta salata, sweet confit tomatoes, anchovies and a little chilli and garlic.
The ravioli (£10), from the Emilia Romagna region, featured nearly a dozen pillows stuffed with a rough pulp of cavolo nero, veal and potato, as well as a topping of melted butter and thyme. We also had the Sicilian squid ink spaghetti with baby squid ragu (£9), which was pleasant enough. There was a tangled whorl of black tendrils, soft cephalopod strips and a pulpy sugo, as well as a feathery dusting of lemon pangrattato, which didn’t seem quite acidic enough to lift the musky squidiness.
All three were rustic and wholesome, not like the luxe takes on pasta you might find at Edinburgh’s Contini or Glasgow’s Eusebi, but that makes this place unique. Also, the affordability is slightly misleading, since these are definitely not small plates. One portion of pasta each is enough, unless you’re carb loading for a cycle across the Dolomites.
Anyway, we couldn’t eat everything, so, at the table, a waitress unceremoniously scraped our leftovers into a brown takeaway box.
Thanfully, to save any backtracking blushes, someone else took our pudding order, which included an excellent crispy and bubble-surfaced ricotta-stuffed cannoli (£3.50), with one end powdered by grated chocolate and the other crumbled pistachio.
The Amalfi lemon tart (£4.50) had slightly soggy pastry, but the filling was rich and tart, and it came with a helter-skelter of Mr Whippy style soft serve ice-cream, spliced with a triangular wafer.
Although I still want to try their Specials of bigoli with duck (£10) and the spaghetti with...what’s that, speak up, oh yeah, clams (£10)... a visit here felt more like a satisfying pitstop than a massive treat.
Still, when it comes to refuelling for under a tenner in central Glasgow, Sugo is hard to beat. (And it scores five out of five for doggy bag potential). n
70 Mitchell Street, Glasgow www.sugopasta.co.uk