Inspired by a song heard on its owners’ honeymoon, Celentano’s brings a true taste of Italy to the heart of Glasgow

When lunch begins with a fat, crispy fritter of porcini mushroom and Corra Linn cheese lasagne, you know you’re on to a very good thing. I’m late to the party I know but I finally made it to Celentano’s in Glasgow’s Cathedral Square. Celentano’s is run by chef-patron Dean Parker and his wife and co-owner, Anna. Occupying the ground floor of the historic Baronial-style Cathedral House, the beautiful restaurant is flooded with light.

A mezzanine splits the space, creating a variety of seating options from larger tables for groups to bar seats for walk-ins. Dean rose through the culinary ranks in London at Robin Gill’s restaurants The Dairy, Sorella and Darby’s, before the couple returned to Anna’s hometown to open Celentano’s. The restaurant is inspired by Italian food culture and culinary style, and named after a song the couple heard on repeat during their Italian honeymoon. It’s a relaxed, convivial spot. When I visit many tables are clearly occupied by regulars and a birthday party is happening in the private dining room upstairs. 

We start with a pair of rich smoked cod doughnuts topped with the zip of homemade kimchi, the delicious aforementioned fritti, a bowl of olives and a house cocktail. I’m half-expecting a small-plates menu and it’s refreshing to actually have a classic three courser instead with a choice of two starters, three mains and three desserts. Many restaurants boast of seasonal cooking, sadly few follow through on that promise. I’m delighted to see Celentano’s really celebrates local produce at its peak: today that’s rhubarb, wild garlic, asparagus, and courgettes, which are all prominent throughout the menu. Even the seasonal spritz for the weekend is made with rhubarb, no doubt helping the team in their commitment to minimal waste. Fermentation and curing techniques are used to maximize ingredients too, I spy plenty of pickled vegetables, and I love the acidic lift of homemade kombucha in my whisky sour. 

My starter is a deep bowl of creamy Stracciatella cheese curds (like the middle of burrata). It’s surrounded by a moat of verdant wild garlic sauce. A crunchy pumpkin seed crumble, thinly sliced raw courgettes, pickled wild garlic flowers and fresh basil leaves add layers of texture and flavour to what is a stand-out dish. My husband has a delicious dish of flaked cod cheeks, accompanied by a rich brown crab and sesame mousse, a pork XO sauce crumb and fennel fronds. Despite the urban setting, herbs and berries are grown for the menu in the Celentano’s kitchen garden, and there are bees kept nearby.

The Herald:

Outdoor tables line the terraced garden beside the restaurant, a hidden suntrap on a good day with views of the gothic Necropolis opposite. For ‘secondi’ I choose tagliatelle, which arrives under a delightful cloud of parmesan, just the way I like it. The homemade pasta ribbons curl around thin spears of tender asparagus and fairy ring mushrooms with a creamy wild garlic sauce, and breadcrumbs and toasted hazelnuts to add depth and bite. If early summer warm days, fresh cut grass and optimism could be conjured up in a dish then this is it. Across the table a barbecued trout fillet with wilted greens and seaweed butter elicits an equally impressed response. 

Sides are shared between two. The salad is a generous hillock of well-dressed Free Company leaves, with cucumber, pickled carrot, and wild garlic flowers. Potato strati cooked in beef fat are the other option: the tall stacks of gleaming crispy potatoes look incredible (next time). A glass of biodynamic Venetian white wine (on tap to save glass bottles) is a light and fresh accompaniment. 

Desserts are delightful. A brown butter madeleine has chewy dense crumb and a savoury miso flavour, it’s served with tart poached rhubarb, sweet lemon curd and a delicate milk gelato: the combination is outstanding. The Celentano’s affogato has a base of rich chocolate mousse, topped with a generous scoop of malted barley gelato with a shot of cold brew coffee cradled in its centre. 

I find it hard to get excited about a classic roast Sunday lunch, to me it’s often heavy and uninspiring. This however: a leisurely three courses in a gorgeous setting, has all the ingredients for a perfect Sunday. The set menu is £32 and for the quality of produce, the style and skill of the kitchen and the brilliant informed and friendly service: it’s outstanding value. 

Celentano’s, 28-32 Cathedral Square, Glasgow