Nestled in the run of wee shops on Queen Margaret Drive, a hop from Byres Road is the small but perfectly formed gem of Italian cafes, Smile. Run by Santino and Rocco, Glasgow’s own Italian kings of coffee and delicious food, Smile Cafe has been open for a couple of years and steadily winning accolades and fans across Glasgow. Five stars on Trip Advisor, brilliant reviews on everything else from the List to Yelp, Urban Spoon and beyond – these guys know their shizzle.
My first visit was on a rainy Commonwealth Games day with my Mum and we were both charmed by the friendly, open and super cosy cafe and the guys behind the counter. I was expecting it to be good and the sight and sound of local Italian’s ordering their coffee and shooting the breeze convinced me it definitely would be.
It’s a tiny space but lovingly presented with Italian foods for sale, great homemade wraps and tortes on display and the coolest menu I have seen in a long time. Hand drawn by Santino, the menu gives you a clear visual aid to picking the kind of coffee you want. In a chain shop world of Americano’s, latte’s, flat whites, mocha’s and frappuccino’s – this place makes it easy.
Personally, I like a double espresso, in a big cup with hot milk on the side. This so I can avoid getting something that is too strong (I’m a wuss with mega strong coffee) , enough space for loads of milk, and not too much of the froth on the top. Turns out, what I had been describing was a Smile cafe white coffee – double espresso, topped up with silky milk and a tiny froth on top to make it look pretty The seriously tempting Marocchino Smile (pic left), is still calling my name!
So, I can confirm that yes, in line with popular opinion, the coffee in Smile is fantastic. I defy you to say otherwise. The excellent thing about Smile is also that the food is just as good. I shared a Dante platter with my Mum and the mix of cheese, bread, olives and aubergines was a tasty wee nibble. I’ve since been back and sampled the anchovy salad – seriously salty little fish nestled in a salad filed with capers and olives; and a spicy salami and cheese ciabatta that really filled a gap. I’ll be honest, I could always go a little more and in the face of some freshly, homemade desserts, my waistline stood no chance. I picked Nona’s torte, a delicious short crust pastry topped with vanilla cream and sprinkled with pine nuts. It didn’t need the slightly overpowering raspberry sauce as it was light, delicious and beautifully presented without. I even had an extra coffee on the side. And, after a leisurely, friendly hour or so, I buzzed my way out of my favourite little cafe in Glasgow.
If you like coffee, Italian hospitality, fresh ingredients and Neapolitan gelato…. stop by Smile Cafe. You won’t be disappointed and will definitely leave smiling.