Fratelli Sarti, Renfield Street, Glasgow
Fratelli Sarti is a bit of a Glasgow institution and has been for the 20 years since it opened. The fact that I got a voucher as a Christmas present is testament to that. I had planned to use this on olive oil, bresaola and wine from the Wellington Street branch. However on this night the need for feelgood Italian food was greater so we went to the restaurant which sits proudly on the corner of Renfield Street and West George Street. This was personally my first ever visit to Sarti. My first impression was that it looked very welcoming and impressive with its imposing bar and marble tables, but could have done with a bit of heating, it was very cold to the extent of ‘do I don’t I remove my jacket.?’.
However the warmth of the staff soon remedied that. With a very typically Italian informal, attentive but exuberant welcome we sat down with our menus and the specials were gone through in detail. I love that passion for food in people, I have a real empathy with it as I am the same myself when cooking. Having taken all this in MrsT went for Bruschetta to start followed by Lasagne, sometimes you’re just in the mood for what you know and love best. I decided on Antipasto di Mare followed by Spaghetti con Polpette Della Mamma, how could you possibly look past Mamma’s spaghetti with meatballs, they just sounded magnificent.
To accompany I ordered a bottle of Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi. Like all good Italian restaurants the wine selection reflects the wonderful wine landscape of that gorgeous country and is invariably unavailable elsewhere. This was a really nice ‘house’ wine, full of lemony citrus acidity and a clean finish. Ideal for the starters and surprisingly palatable with the main courses (MrsT doesn’t drink red so either it’s two bottles or make do when food matching!).
The starters were beautiful. Bruschetta is wonderful when made with fresh homemade bread, ripe flavoursome tomatoes and quality olive oil. The simplest dish and just unbeatable. The Antipasto di Mare was great, in fact the best dish of the night, full of fantastic mussels, shrimps, king prawns and cuttlefish. Wonderfully offset by the pickled green beans and peppers on the side. The contrast of flavours as the acidity cut through the rich oily garlic and wine from the seafood was perfect. This was just a delight and as our host said ‘the ultimate compliment to the chef is when you ask for bread’ as I had done to mop up the heady flavours from the juices. Freshly sliced from the massive ‘daily bread’ loaf on the side and complementary, another welcome touch.
If the antipasti were fresh and classy, the pasta was huge and rich. The lasagne with layers of fantastic fresh pasta interspersed with meatiness, and creaminess in the bechamel oozing out. My meatball spaghetti was the sort of dish I wished I’d had before the Edinburgh Marathon last year when I was carb loading. Massive plate of pasta, rich ragu and then amazing sausage and steak meatballs which were light but also intensely flavoured. This was definitely Mamma’s meatballs because it was the kind of dish every son would want put down in front of him after a long hard day. This to me is what homestyle Italian food is all about, the ability to deliver flavour that makes you smile and gives you a warm feeling. We passed on desserts for coffees, a typically rich chocolatey Italian double espresso, washed down with a complimentary limoncello to cleanse the palate and reflected on a meal which had met all the high expectations we had.
Fratelli Sarti is a restaurant that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. It certainly won’t be as long again before I return to this gem in Glasgow’s city centre.