IT’S almost time for the last supper. Though not quite. Another 24 hours will have to pass before the concluding morsel is munched, the final nibble on the edge of no more. After that, a little part of Scotland’s living history will die.

Which does sound rather melodramatic, though perhaps such language is warranted on this occasion. For O Sole Mio Ristorante and Pizzeria on Bath Street truly is part of Glasgow’s warp and weft; its foody fabric.

Opened in 1965, it’s the city’s oldest surviving Italian restaurant. Back when it started serving food, in the last millennium, the Beatles hadn’t yet gone psychedelic, the internet wouldn’t numb our brains for another few decades, and if you asked anybody what Twitter was, they probably would have given you a very silly answer, such as it was something to do with birds chirping.

In those days it was impossible to leave the European Union because we hadn’t joined the European Union. And one of the key reasons we hadn’t joined was that it didn’t exist.

And the food in 1965? It was as grey and fuzzy as the black and white TV screens everyone was screwing their eyes up to watch. The most exotic dish on any menu was deep fried porridge with a side garnish of that’s your lot.

Which is only a slight exaggeration. This was the era when the notion of a celebrity chef was as ridiculous as a celebrity traffic warden, or a celebrity Simon Cowell.

If you wanted flavour in your life, you had to rip open a bag of cheese and onion crisps. Taste buds were viewed with suspicion, as something Johnny Foreigner was likely to be in favour of. Like a tan, or deodorant for men.

Remembrance of Things Pasta

And then pizazz pitched up on our shores. And that pizazz was pizza (and pasta) shaped. Not long after the Italian fine-dining invasion, Glaswegians started using words like cuisine, and getting away with it, too. This shifting of the tectonic dinner plates was due, in no small part, to the meals being served at O Sole Mio.

And yet when I pop in at the end of January, it’s with the knowledge that the following day, a Saturday, will witness the very last service. Not because of any dip in popularity. O Sole Mio is still a palpable hit with its many loyal customers. However, the building it’s located on is to be knocked down, consigned to the dust.

A new hotel will be erected in its place. Taller. Shinier. As these things always are. But as the future rockets skywards, some things will be left behind, and O Sole Mio will be one of them.

So it’s with a sense of genuine sadness that I sit down in a corner booth of the restaurant that will soon be no more, for a Remembrance of Things Pasta with proprietor Djamel Benouari.

Djamel took over the business in 2011 from the original owners, the Romano family, so he hasn’t been here from the start. He’s also not Italian, but instead came to Scotland from Algeria, roughly 40 years ago, to study marketing at university.

But he has a genuine love of both Italian cuisine and this restaurant in particular. “I enjoy the Italian way of doing things,” he says. “I like food and wine and expresso.” To underline this point, he tucks into a large plate of spaghetti as we talk.

Old-world charm

To keep himself financially solvent while studying, Djamel found work as a waiter in Dino’s restaurant in Sauchiehall Street. Another Italian eatery that has now vanished from the local landscape.

Soon he was immersing himself in both the business and Italian culture. On graduating, Djamel would go on to manage many Italian restaurant throughout the city. When the opportunity to take over O Sole Mio presented itself, he couldn’t resist being associated with its glamorous history.

As he explains, it really was one of Glasgow’s premier hot spots. Many showbiz types ate here, including Billy Connolly. But what it was most famous for was being the unofficial hangout of a certain local football club. If you chucked a meatball in O Sole Mio, it would most likely bounce off the napper of a Rangers player.

Ally McCoist was a regular, and it was the haunt of the many Italians who played for the club. Former team captain, Lorenzo Amoruso, launched his cookbook here. He now owns an Italian restaurant of his own, in Italy. (Though, of course, in Italy an ‘Italian restaurant’ is more commonly known as ‘a restaurant’.)

Rangers and AC Milan player Gennaro Gattuso, now managing Napoli, is married to Monica Romano, whose father Mario was one of the original owners of the restaurant.

“So our little place is known well past the UK border,” says Djamel. “All the way into Italy.”

Another regular was criminal lawyer, Joseph Beltrami, who had his own table at the restaurant. And did he bring his often-infamous clients into the dining area, mixing alibis with arrabiata sauce?

Djamel grins: “We have a saying. What happens at O Sole Mio stays at O Sole Mio.”

It’s no wonder that so many high-profile personages have spent much of their free time here, as there is something wonderfully theatrical about this eatery. Although Djamel spent several thousand pounds renovating the place, it has maintained its old-word charm to the last.

You enter the dining room by tugging aside a plush red velvet curtain. On a table there is a hefty reservations book, chunky as a Medieval bible. The lighting is sombre and subdued. None of that garish glitz that modern fine dining establishments exude, which often makes them look like a cross between a nightclub and a research laboratory.

According to Djamel, the most important decorative aspect of his restaurant is the customers themselves. They are the colour, the clamour, the glamour.

Our place, our home, our history

But, of course, in a restaurant like this, there are no customers. Only family.

“When this restaurant first opened, not many people could easily afford to eat here,” says Djamel. “So it became a place you would come if you wanted to impress a girlfriend or a would-be fiancé or a prospective business partner.

“You would bring them here and it was almost guaranteed that they would say yes to whatever you asked them. So the girlfriend would become the wife, and the business deal would be done. That made O Sole Mio special to people, and they would keep coming back.

“Parents would bring children. Then grandchildren would come, too. Whole families were brought up on our food.”

And now that tradition is about to come to an end. The day after my chat with Djamel, the final meals will be served, no doubt salted with a few tears.

The following week an auction will be held in the restaurant. Furnishings sold off. Memories moved on. But is this really the end of O Sole Mio?

“Perhaps not,” says Djamel. “I don’t think I realised how much this place meant to people until we were forced to close. Since then the reaction has been incredible. People pleading to get a table for one last meal. So many cards commiserating about us closing down.

“I thought I would just retire when we finally closed up, but our customers are now encouraging me to keep the name of O Sole Mio going if I possibly can.

“So maybe – hopefully – we will open again soon, in some other location. But it must be nearby. This is our place, our home, our history. And perhaps it can be our future, too.”