Restaurant review: warm Italian welcome on a plate

THERE'S a reason why Italian food is so popular the world over, and that's sheer comfort.

It may be an all-season cuisine - but when it's cold outside, there can be few dishes more warming and soothing than piled-high pasta.

Newton Mearns staple Il Pavone Sud has just launched its Christmas menu - but, on a wintry night, twinkly lights or none, the a la carte called to me more than turkey and trimmings.

I started with gamberoni diavolo, or king prawns in a rich, spicy tomato sauce. It's a classic for a reason, and Il Pavone's take didn't disappoint, with plump prawns, sweet cherry tomatoes and perfectly sized garlic toast bites on the side - a nice touch.

The other half went for antipasto, which came stacked with meats and mozzarella.

On then to the mains, and the OH was tempted by tortelloni boscaiola; parcels of spinach and ricotta with peas, pancetta, mushrooms and a cream sauce. It was an excellent choice - a hug in food form.

I went for an old favourite, puttanesca, and was less satisfied. A concoction of strong flavours (anchovy, olive, tomato and caper), it should be a culinary punch in the face. This was more of a tap on the shoulder; pleasant, but not very memorable.

The rosemary, garlic and sea salt focaccia was, however, excellent - soft on the inside, crisp on the edges, and packed with savoury flavour.

Desserts hit the spot too. The strawberry cheesecake arrived looking like a sundae and had the texture of a mousse - but that's no criticism, because it was a gooey, indulgent treat.

The lemony torta della nonna - a custard pastry pie topped with pine nuts - was delightful as well. Sweet, soft in the middle and crispy in every other direction, it was a rich end to an equally hearty meal.

The service at Il Pavone Sud was impeccable; welcoming, friendly and informal - much like visiting old friends.

It's easy to see why Newton Mearns neighbours would keep coming back, and it all comes down to that word again: comfort. Rating: 8/10 Il Pavone Sud 54-55 Ayr Rd Newton Mearns G77 6AA Tel: 0141 616 0011

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