I t WAS a rookie error, but I was still amazed that the front of house picked it up. I’d asked our young waitress what her favourite wine was but was so intent on getting back to blethering with Malcolm that I hadn’t really listened to the answer. So when she poured me a taste of the rosé I was completely unprepared for the disgustingly sweet wine my glass contained. I gurned in surprise, but since it was unquestionably my fault there was nothing for it but to take my medicine and like it.
A couple of minutes later, however, the manager appeared next to our table and asked whether we might possibly have made a mistake in our choice of wine, and whether we would like our bottle replaced with another, more suitable choice. “I was a bit surprised when the order came in and you’d chosen this particular bottle,” he said, “because it’s a zinfandel, so it’s low on alcohol, saccharine-sweet and pretty much designed for young women. You don’t look like young women and you didn’t, to be honest, look that impressed when you tried it.”
Suitably chastened, yet impressed, we accepted his kind offer and a bottle of pinot grigio was brought and gratefully consumed. Despite the fact that we had filled two big glasses with the horrible rosé, we weren’t charged for it. Now that’s what I call good service.
We were in deepest, darkest Renfrewshire to try out Amaretto, a lively local Italian restaurant opened in 2008 by the Di Caccia family. Since that date, and despite its decent size, it has rapidly reached the point where booking is essential at weekends and advisable on Wednesdays and Thursdays. But then, if Amaretto has to fight the tendency of locals to head into nearby Glasgow, it also has the advantage of a huge and prosperous Renfrewshire catchment area with virtually no local competition: Mar Hall in Bishopton is an altogether grander proposition, while the closure of Cail Bruich in Quarriers Village has removed its only genuine local rival.
Amaretto is right on the main street through Bridge of Weir, and from the outside looks like an imposing building. Inside, the place is neatly and functionally done up, with pennants and team pictures of Juventus adorning one wall and giving away the Di Caccias’ geographical roots (although the family are actually better known as rugby players). So far, so normal, and the menu is pretty classic trattoria too, with the usual mix of antipasti, pizzas, salads and ‘carne e pesce’ main courses.
In fact, despite the list of starters containing 18 options, we both decided to start with pasta. Malcolm chose the rigatoni scoglio, which included king and queen scallops, prawns and rigatone in a tomato sauce, while I went for the tagliatelle carbonara, a classic dish that needs no introduction but which I rarely order these days.
There was certainly no issue with the size of the dishes, which came with a price tag of £5.50 each. Malcolm’s bowl was crammed full of at least half a dozen scallops, with a number of prawns thrown in for good measure: he pronounced himself as happy as humanly possible. My carbonara also stacked up well, with fresh, home-made pasta complemented by chunks of smoked bacon that made up a good example of this classic dish.
Our main courses were also both above expectations. This was especially true of Malcolm’s gorgeously succulent pan-fried fillet of sea bass, which had been cooked in lemongrass, spring onion and white wine, but had none of that tart acidity you so often find when too much lemon has been used. This was nigh on perfect.
When you visit any Italian restaurant worth its salt you have to try the veal, and my chargrilled veal tenderloin in mushroom, brandy and cream sauce may have been a conventional choice, but it was competently done and pretty much on a par with my experience of the same dish the last time I was in Italy. In other words, it’s something I’d happily re-order, even if it won’t make my top ten main courses of the year.
The same didn’t go for the puddings, however. Once again, an ultra-conventional choice was the only option, but this time the puddings lived down to expectations. My cream-heavy tiramisu, in particular, was bland and almost completely lacking in any sign of the coffee or booze that give the dish its bite. Malcolm’s pannacotta was better but still instantly forgettable.
Yet our puddings and an unsightly stack of dirty glasses by the front door were the only downsides to a meal that went some way to explaining why the place is so often full. Amaretto has no pretensions other than to be the quintessential local Italian restaurant, and from the great service, huge wine list (albeit with surprisingly few Italian options) and an enormous menu featuring virtually every one of the greatest hits of Italian cuisine, it generally succeeds in that aim. n
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West