TONY Macaroni is the only child of Betty Spaghetti and Pappardelle Rigatoni. He grew up in the Italian village of Vermicelli, and his dog was called Fido Fettuccini.
503 Queensferry Road, Edinburgh
(0131-297 7444, www.tonymacaroni.co.uk)
Lunch for two adults and one child, excluding drinks, £52.80
Actually, I don’t think there is an ACTUAL Tony Macaroni, although he lives on in my mind, with his farfalle bow tie and tubular Bill and Ben limbs.
I suppose he’s like Ronald McDonald to this restaurant chain, which has nine branches in Edinburgh, Glasgow, East Kilbride and Dunfermline, and is owned by the people behind Scottish ice-cream parlours, Nardini’s, as well as Marini’s fish and chip shops.
One of its ventures, Alla Romana, in Edinburgh’s Bruntsfield, closed down recently. Perhaps its newest branch on Queensferry Road will do better, though I hadn’t accounted for how far it is out of the city centre. It’s miles away along the A90, on the end of a grey arcade of shops, with a car park out front.
The menu has been designed by Fabio Compoli – an Italian master chef, apparently. By the entrance, there’s a display of Compoli’s book, La Mia Cucina, released to raise funds for the Cash for Kids charity. Each is emblazoned with the Tony Macaroni slogan – vive per mangiere (live to eat) – which is also written on the wall in fluorescent lighting.
Though the interior is swanky, the staff looked as if they’d been sucking on Amalfi lemons (apart from one waiter, who we latched on to gratefully like motherless ducklings).
A starter of mozzarella in carrozza (£5.95) was a lush, pillowy and stringy-centred fried cheese sandwich, with (not quite enough) anchovy inside. It came with a “pistachio salad,” which featured fennel, cherry tomato and lettuce, but none of the billed nuts. I even checked inside the tomatoes, but there were no stowaways curled up in the corners.
It also does a decent, if rather wet, parmigiana di melanzane (£5.25) – the baked dish with layers of aubergine, sweet sloppy sugo, mozzarella and basil. It’s a shame that the garlic bread accompaniment was a slice of naked toast.
Maybe there’s a shortage of this smelly bulb, as well as olive oil, as the joy-sapping bruschetta (£4.50) consisted of two slices of plain toast covered in cubes of woolly textured tomato.
My pasta course – mezze maniche con ceci (£8.95) – or “pasta and chickpeas in an aromatic vodka-flavoured creamy sauce, with bay leaves, chilli and curry” – sounded like something they might have made on Ready Steady Cook with ingredients provided by an irate audience member out for revenge. However, if Ainsley Harriott had created this, I might have voted for him with my green pepper sign. It was surprisingly pleasant.
The gamberoni Portofino (£14.95) was ok. The prawns here are almost porpoise-sized, and these ones came with courgettes and mushrooms in a thick and condensed soupy bright yellow saffron sauce, with a pile of pilaf rice on the side.
It seems that pizzas are where it’s at. My three-year-old niece had one from the children’s menu (£4.95 for two courses).
These were supposed to come with two toppings, and Titch went for chicken and prawns. They rather huffily made a big deal about this and charged us an extra £1 for choosing the seafood, even though the menu didn’t say anything about restrictions.
Despite the additional quid, this was a great pizza, with a billowy yeasty flour-dusted crust and huge chunks of meat on the top. I’ve never seen a small person put away so much food.
We’re not proud of choosing Tony’s chocolate honeycomb Vesuvius (£7.25) for pudding, but it’s not like there was anything much more sophisticated to order. It was a showcase of sugar in all its many forms and textures – springy marshmallows, chocolate sauce, crisp honeycomb and wafers, crumbly Amaretti granules and biscuits, chocolate curls, scoops of Belgian chocolate and vanilla ice-cream. I can’t say for sure if the sinister-sounding “dark chocolate blossom,” as billed, was among this flurry or not, but I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for.
Sugar high or not, this restaurant is not really my kind of place.
I’m all for vive per mangiere, just not necessarily at Tony Macaroni’s restaurant.