Sugo – the new £1.5M Italian pasta restaurant from Paul ‘Paesano Pizza’ Stevenson – opened in the former Glasgow Herald Building on the city’s Mitchell Lane at the end of last year. I doubt there’s been such a buzz in or about this city landmark since the days it had a working newsroom. It was full of carb-happy customers the day I hung by.
The creation of this hugely anticipated 230-cover restaurant was four months in the making and Paul showed me around after it had been open barely a week. He has invested so much of his time and so much of his personal taste into the design, which he masterminded, in conjunction with Mark Brunjes of CM Design. Their overall objective? To achieve a sense of “it’s always been here.” And they look to have done exactly that by coming up with a design that doesn’t take away from or even partially eclipse the splendour of this fantastic building while bringing some quirkiness to it too.
Outside what was formerly a digital design company and most recently empty for the last six years, it looks as if the sandstone work has been cleaned up and there’s a simple red neon ‘Sugo’ sign whose simplicity is its strength.
Hugh Stirling was the main contractor – and responsible for just about everything, from tiling, marble, and most of the furniture.
Inside, there’s a stone-walled reception area in the front corner, with two archways leading through to the restaurant – a longish, generous space, with arched windows down its right-hand side. I defy your eyes not to be drawn to the big red neon ‘Sugo’ sign that hangs at the gateway to the seating area.
There’s a bar at the top of the space, designed to accommodate up to 40 customers as they wait for a table, followed by that big expanse of seating with a pasta production section and kitchen right at the far end from where you enter.
Both areas are blessed with beautiful marble preparation areas. Said Paul, “I imported arabesque marble from Tuscany for both the pasta preparation area where we prepare all the pasta by hand, including the filled pasta, and the kitchen at the back of the restaurant, which has a 12-metre long marble preparation area. We also have four induction suites in the kitchen, each with eight gas hobs, plus a pasta boiler section. We also have the Rolls Royce of meat slicers, The Metcalfe, which I imported from Milan.”
And both areas have also been tiled with beautiful brick tiles that I told Paul looked like ones used on some Berlin underground stations. They look to be green in colour from a distance which, as Paul explained, is merely a trick of the light. “I got the tiles from Dean & DeLuca in New York City, which are plain glass with a white background. They have a green hue through the glass, however.”
The whole operation is so slick, it’s hard to believe that it’s just opened, and Paul did go to town when it came to training the chefs. He said, “I sent three of my pasta chefs to Veneto, Tuscany and to Lazio, in Rome to be under the instruction of Pasta Masters. I then flew the Pasta Masters over here for a few weeks to continue the training.”
The smooth concrete floor also has its own story. Explained Paul, “Before we put the concrete floor down we had to pour in 45 tonnes of screed to level it out, which was a big cost, but the end result made it well worth it.”
Paul was particularly proud of the lighting – which he sourced online, and the likes of which I haven’t seen before in all the years I’ve written about bars. They range from lozenge-shaped and metal-industrial, to angle-poise lamps. Said Paul, “Every light and angle-poise lamp has been reclaimed from Eastern Bloc factories and gas works and I think that as well as being highly unusual in Glasgow, they also suit the rest of the decor perfectly. “
Some other design highlights include the wooden tables which have been paired with red leather upholstered benches and brown leather upholstered seats and all of the industrial workings exposed in the ceiling.
Everybody in the office couldn’t wait to hear what Sugo was like because most people love pasta, and the fact that Paul has invested so heavily both in the design and the training, it looks like he’s going to have his fingerprints over two Glasgow eating phenomenons.