Hyndland Street in Glasgow’s west end isn’t short of a restaurant or two, but not many can claim to have been on the scene for over 30 years.
Pretty much every eatery on the street has changed name or hands over the years, except one. Businessman Marco Stevenson has bragging rights to the ‘long standing’ accolade with his popular pizza and fish and chip takeaway Pizza Magic.
Loved by locals, many of which are famous (Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges are two well known customers), the takeaway has been on the go since 1989. But Marco has had big plans for business, and they’ve recently been realised.
In 2017 Marco lodged plans to turn Pizza Magic into a restaurant by Marco by extending into the neighbouring shop - the former Tabak newsagent - that shut its doors earlier that year.
When the grocery shop (which Marco also ran) closed, after Sainsbury’s opened nearby, Marco saw an opportunity to do something different with the businesses.
After a number of false starts and the disruption of Covid, he finally closed his popular pizza takeaway in February this year and set about the merger and transformation of the two units.
After a whirlwind of work, Nostrana opened in early September. Nostrana (meaning ‘local’ in Italian) serves freshly-made handcrafted pizza, pastas, mains, snacks and desserts from noon to evening in a relaxed setting.
As I live nearby, I’ve been keeping an eye on the restaurant developments, and it has been pleasing to see Nostrana open, and kept busy, both inside and at its pavement cafe style (dog friendly) seating outside.
Almost a month after reopening, we ventured along on a (getting distinctly autumnal) Monday evening.
Again the restaurant was quite busy, but we were seated quickly in the bright room which was buzzing with music.
Unlike the takeaway, the restaurant is fully licensed and serves a range of wine, beers and cocktails including favourites like an Aperol Spritz.
I chose a classic Italian red - sangiovese - while it was a non alcoholic beer that was the choice of my driving dining companion.
The menu has two types of pizza - Nostrana (made for sharing) and Neopolitan - and pizza by the slice along with fish and chips, sides, breads and desserts.
Most things are classic Italian, some with modern twists. Having just come from the gym, it felt like a good night for double carbs so I chose pasta - Penne Amatriciana (£9.50) to share along with an intriguing sounding Bee Sting pizza (£14). We also decided to share burrata (£5) and focaccia with rosemary (£8).
The food arrived promptly and as the pizza was being cut up, I delved into the penne pasta, which was cooked perfectly al dente.
Doused in a rich tomato sauce, this dish also had onions, pancetta and garlic, which gave a warming depth to the sauce while the pancetta added saltiness, if a bit chewy.
The pizza was a spicy number, with Soppressata sausage, red chillies, fresh basil, Fior di Latte cheese and dots of honey all sat on a Pomodoro sauce base.
The combination of heat from the chillies worked very well with the sweetness of the honey and creaminess of the cheese while the crust was chewy and well baked.
The ball of burrata, like a cheesy cloud, sat on a large plate of rocket which hid some cherry tomatoes - with everything splashed in sweet balsamic dressing.
The cool creamy burrata complemented the peppery rocket in this simple side. But it was the focaccia that stood out for me.
Served warm from the oven and sliced into triangles, the bread was studded with flakes of sea salt and peppered with fragrant fresh rosemary - a classic but done very well at Nostrana.
While the restaurant is open until 10pm, and was quite busy when we arrived, we were the last two dining when last orders for the bar were called and cleaning commenced.
Dessert wasn’t offered, although we didn’t feel rushed. After so many carbs, I think they did me a favour, though I will be back to try Torta della Nonna and Tiramisu.
Before opening, Marco said: “Hyndland and the West End have given me so much over the years and I feel privileged to be part of the neighbourhood.
“I have never lived here but I consider it my home because of the friendliness and warmth of my friends and the local community.
“We are really excited about what we have here. I have struggled to define Nostrana as just a restaurant serving good food - we want it to be a place where people can come for anything; drinks, a coffee, a meal, as a couple, as a group, or by themselves.
“However people experience Nostrana, they can be assured of a warm neighbourly welcome, a friendly smile, and quality food and drinks at reasonable prices.”
With a bill that came to just over £40 and comforting Italian food - the type of which you see at well established venues - Marco has remained true to his word and his long-held dream of this restaurant.