“ Address: The Hub / Almondvale Crescent / Livingston / EH54 6QX „
TONY MACARONI is a chain of Italian restaurants in central Scotland with branches in: Dunfermline, East Kilbride, Edinburgh, Glasgow (4), Largs, Motherwell and this one, in LIVINGSTON.
But, before you all go flocking to Tony Macaroni to satisfy your craving for delicious, creamy and yellow Mac'n'cheese, let's get one thing straight. Although Tony Macaroni's has an extensive menu as long as a wet Tuesday in Blantyre, one thing they don't serve is, macaroni. Go figure.
As I said, they have a huge menu which, you'll be glad to know, I'm not going to list (if you need to know, check their website). A quick summary is all you're getting from me:
22 starters - from £3.95 to £11.95
7 bruschetta and crostino - £3.50 to £4.95
6 focaccia - £3.75 to £7.95
3 salads - around a tenner
19 pizzas (with tomato sauce base) and 8 pizzas (without tomato) - £6.95 to £10.95
23 risotto and pasta - £6.95 to £9.95
3 burgers - £8.95
10 meat dishes - £12.95 to £18.95
5 fish dishes - £9.95 to £14.95
and around a dozen desserts for a fiver.
Oh, and they also do 21 tapa dishes at £3.95 or any 3 for £9.95.
If that's not enough, then they also have a presto menu Monday - Friday 12noon - 6.30pm for £4.95. And...they do different specials on different evenings.
Choices, choices, choices. But no macaroni.
Tony Mac's is but a short walk from my house which means no driving which means being able to have a little refreshment without worrying about taxis etc. Did I mention they also have a bar? That's right, it's possible to just pop in for a pint and not bother navigating your way through a menu that's just a little shorter than War and Peace (the unabridged version).
The bar area is very welcoming and a nice area for that pre dinner drink, not to mention their Sunday afternoon cocktail menu...which I won't.
Livingston being the place it is, although this is a town centre restaurant, parking is not a problem as it shares the building (and the car park with a Travelodge). But wait, no room in the car park? Well, on the other side of the roundabout (Livingston being the place it is) is Macarthur Glen's 6 storey car park so there's really no excuse. I didn't need an excuse anyway...or a car park.
I've been here a few times, sometimes in a large group, sometimes for a more intimate tête-à-tête with Mrs p. Tony Mac's seems to cater for both occasions suitably as there are open areas where tables can be placed together for a crowd, and booths for a little more privacy. The décor is more American Diner that Tuscan Trattoria.
But enough of all that, what about the grub?
The last time I was there was just a couple of weeks ago for one of those intimate little soirees with my bestest gal.
We had booked a table (always a good idea as it gets pretty busy) and arrived with plenty of time in hand for leisurely pint in the aforementioned bar. It's not the sort of place you'd go to sample craft beers, but they have a wide choice of all the popular lagers with emphasis (not surprisingly) on Italian ones. I'm not a great fan of Peroni and the like and I think they are overpriced, but a cool pint of Tennents won't break the bank. Most prices are typical of town centre pubs.
Suitably refreshed, we made our way to the maître d'...or the guy who shows you to your table...and were seated in no time at all. There can be queues.
We were seated at a nice cosy table on the lower level at the window side with a lovely view of the twin domed multi-storey car park. New town living at its best. Still, I wasn't here to look at the view, I was here to gaze lovingly into the eyes of my favourite (that's if the chef left the heads on the prawns, of course).
Comfortably seated, we perused the menu. And perused. And perused. It IS a little on the large side of extensive.
With all the starters on offer, Mrs p opted for not having one. I, on the other hand, being eternally famished, chose an option from the tapas menu. I had pollo alla crema, which translates to chicken and roast peppers in a cream sauce. Actually, no it doesn't. It should've been called Pollo arrosto e peperoni alla crema. Mio Dio, what if'n I was allergic to peppers?! Or didn't like them. I'm not and I do so it wasn't a problem. Just sayin' likes.
The POLLO ALLA CREMA was delicious. Big chunks of grilled chicken and hunks of red peppers melded together with a creamy sauce was just what the doctor ordered (well it would've been if I had finished medical school). It was really tasty but a little slice of bread to mop up the sauce wouldn't have gone amiss, although having said that it was actually a tad on the large side for a starter in my opinion. But, being the little soldier I am, I scoffed the lot.
For my main, I chose the LINGUINE ALLO SCOGLIO, - king prawns, mussels, clams and scampi in a white wine sauce (£9.95). Big juicy king prawns, sweet mussels and clams in their shell and twisted lumps of scampi. What could go wrong with that? Well, nothing. It was lovely. The portion wasn't too large, unlike some of the meat dishes I saw other diners being served, but sufficiently ample. All the seafood tasted fresh and the pasta had just enough bite to it. The sauce was fairly subtle but then you wouldn't want to overwhelm the fish anyway. I scoffed the lot...apart from the shells, obviously.
Mrs p, the wild and adventurous epicurean gourmet that she is, chose FISH AND CHIPS. I know. Still, as she was paying, I suppose she could have whatever she liked. Incidentally, fish and chips isn't on the regular menu but was on the Sunday Presto menu. I can't actually remember what this cost but was either £7.95 or a quid more. Naturally, in the interests of consumer reviewability, I had a taste. The fish (haddock) was bright, white, flaky and tasty with a nice crunchy breadcrumb coating. The chips were fine, nothing special but nothing wrong with them either and they didn't appear to be frozen. The peas were cooked in a broth which raised them up a level and I could have eaten a plateful of them on their own. As for the dip, I thought it would be tartare sauce but I'm not sure it was...it wan't spicy enough. It was OK though. This time I didn't scoff the lot (wasn't allowed to).
We didn't bother with desserts but any I saw on their way to some diners hungrier than we were looked delicious and huge (so they should be at a fiver a pop).
We tanned...er, savoured a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio which cost about £20 - most wines were around this price. I thought the wine list a little disappointing...well a little short really. Still, the wine was nice enough and yes, I scoffed the lot.
A visit to the toilets revealed a spotlessly clean and air conditioned oasis.
Service in Tony nae Macaroni can be a bit hit and miss. I seems all the staff (at Livi anyway) are Italian. Either that or they've done a crash course in the Dolmia school of linguinistics (heh). Maybe I'm just being cynical, but the accents all seem a bit fake to me.
This particular evening, the service was spot on. The last time I was there, however, was a different story. Granted, there were more than 20 in the company, but that's no excuse. People were ordering drinks and not getting them, meals were arriving at all different times but the worst was when one of the servers brought chicken wings to the table and, after being told no-one had ordered them, insisted that someone must have. He actually started arguing with us about it (his English seemed to improve dramatically as well!) Needless to say, when settling the bill with a credit card, I was asked if I would like to add a tip. "Yes", I said," Learn some manners."
In conclusion, I'd say that the service is (or can be) the only downside to this restaurant. I've heard other people complain about the bad manners of the staff. Maybe they think its cool to be quirky and grouchy...it's not.
In all other areas, I have no complaints. The décor is nice, as is the atmosphere while the food's good and not overpriced. If only they could remember that the customer is king.
Having said that, I wouldn't hesitate to go back.