Eating my words and licking my lips

Linguini with king prawns
Linguini with king prawns

TONY MACARONI Bell Street, St Andrews

A restaurant review is usually only about the food, the surroundings and possibly the ambience but so often the company all adds to the experience.

I was going to say it was a rare night out in St Andrews but in truth it was a rare night out full stop – so while food figured on the evening’s plans it wasn’t the only thing on the menu, as it were.

In fact, the requirement was that the food be good but it had to slot in between cocktails at the nearby Adamson – before and after – and that it wasn’t to get in the way of the catch-up chatter of two gals on the town.

I’d first heard of Tony Macaroni a few years back and I’d rather snobbishly assumed by the name it was a cheap and cheerful chain, despite it coming highly recommended as being none of the kind.

But while St Andrews is jam-packed with eateries, finding a table on a Friday night at short notice can be a bit of a challenge so I went with the flow and we plumped for Tony Macaroni, a relatively recent addition to the food scene in the town.

I also went with my preconceived ideas of what would be on offer and I really should have known better.

I tried not to be put off by the extensive menu, which can send an advance warning that with so much on offer out the kitchen it can hit the quality of what’s served up at the table (but in hindsight it was probably no more than any other Italian restaurant I’ve been in lately).

But I had to eat my words, along with some really great food.

As the non-meat eater, I was delighted not to be sidelined to the token ‘veggie’ suggestions. Instead I was spoiled for choice – let’s face it, an Italian restaurant should be able to do vegetables well.

To start I went for the parmigiana de melanzane, a great favourite of mine, and I was delighted to find it hit the spot, with the layers of baked aubergine soft and tender and matched with a rich tomato sauce with parmesan and fresh basil. My girlfriend’s choice of toasted bread topped with goats cheese and caramelised onion maybe didn’t smack of Italian authenticity but it was well-received and a fair old challenge in the portion size department.

However, they were but the warm-up for two really standout main dishes.

In my case, the king prawns in my linguine al gamberoni were plump and juicy, and the perfectly-cooked pasta and light tomato sauce a perfect backdrop for the flavourings of garlic and chilli.

Served up opposite was an impressive plate of ravioli di zucca – a mound of pasta pockets stuffed with soft pumpkin in a delicately cream sauce that had both of us guessing what the subtle flavourign it was – turned out to be sage.

Both plates were left empty and it was only our ladylike manners that prevented us wiping up the last of the sauce with a finger.

As I mentioned earlier, portion sizes are generous so neither of us had an inclination to try any of the selection of deserts but maybe on another occasion I’d miss out on a started to give them a go.

The staff were attentive and knowledgable, and what Italian restaurant worth its salt doesn’t have at least one waiter who turns on the charm.

Tony Macaroni was a very pleasant surprise – maybe not where you’d go for a quiet romantic meal-for-two but for good food in relaxed, informal surroundings, it’s a winner.

Starters

Soup (minestrone or chef’s soup of the day) £3.95

Verdure Miste (selection of warm vegetables) £5.50

Gamberi Croccanti al Sesamo (king prawns in sesame batter with endive leaves, walnuts, apple and basil mayonnaise) £6.50

Costolette di Maile (half rack of ribs with homemade barbeque sauce) £6.50

Pasta and risotto

Spaghetti Pollo Piccante (with chicken, garlic and chillies) £9.50

Lunguine allo Scoglio (king prawns, mussels, clams and squid in a white wine sauce) £10.95

Risotto Portofino (king prawns, tomatoes and saffron) £10.95

Also pizzas, fish and hamburgers.