Argyle Street, Glasgow

How much should you pay for a pasta dish? I’m just back from Liguria, a region where, apart from the overrun scenic spots, such as Portofino, restaurant prices are real and not distorted by tourism.

In Liguria the going rate for a good plate of pasta is anything from seven to 14 euros (£6.30 to £12.60), depending on the nature of the establishment. At the pricey end of the scale it’s the ingredients used that justify the price, usually more expensive seafood, or fresh truffles perhaps.

Meanwhile, in the UK, pasta prices keep creeping up. We notice it as we pick up our menus in Pellegrini, a swanky refurbishment of the old Panevino on Argyle Street. This revamp is unmistakably headed upmarket, as if preparing you for higher prices: smart midnight blue banquettes with sleek modernist chairs in accent shades of guava and ochre. Now it has more of a classic Italian restaurant feel; the grazing “small plates” thing seems to be a thing of the past.

We don’t choose pasta, partly because it’s been hard in Italy not to eat it once or twice every day. But the £11.95-£15.95 price tag it commands here has also got something to do with it. Asking £12.95 for La Gran Carbonara (spaghetti, egg, cream, pancetta, pecorino) seems like inflation to me, a hefty gross profit on ingredient cost. And it’s easy to make at home. Looking at our diners’ plates though, it seems that everyone else here has gone down the pasta path.

But we cruise the less trodden parts of the menu and come up with crab bruschetta, which sounds like a much savvier deal at £7.50, and looks rather attractive too. But although it has a fishy smell we can’t identify much fresh crab taste. Perhaps that’s been obscured by the sweetness of the mayonnaise it’s mashed in. For the same price ticket, the sage and rosemary-infused Borlotti and Cannellini bean stew topped with a crusty-grilled fennel and chilli Italian sausage and grilled polenta wedges is a much more compelling proposition. The beans are luscious in their winey, well-reduced tomato salsa, the griddled soft polenta only just holding together, the sausage densely meaty.

Monkfish never comes cheap, so on paper £19.95 isn’t too shocking a price to pay for having it baked in Parma ham, with saffron risotto and red wine jus. Yet I’m disappointed. Like the crab again, the fish doesn’t have much intrinsic taste although overall it’s over-salty in a way that can’t all be put down to its cured ham jacket. One of the reasons I chose this dish was to get the measure here of the risotti, which range from £12.95 to £15.95, which is a lot to pay for a dish that’s mainly relatively inexpensive rice. This risotto is spoiled for me by having sweetly intrusive balsamic vinegar drizzled over it. The grains of rice haven’t been over-cooked, but yet again, the net effect is too salty.

The star of the show is undoubtedly brasato al Sangiovese, a sticky, gelatinous braise of featherblade beef, cooked to submissive slump and falling obligingly into strands in the aforementioned wine, with agreeably vinegary wholegrain mustard mashed potatoes and honey-glazed carrots that have the painstaking, slow cooked taste you get in Indian carrot halwa.

Pellegrini makes a point of telling you that all its desserts are made in-house, which is worth knowing, given the preparedness of more old-fashioned Italian establishments to rely on bought-in Torta di Nonna and gelato. And Pellegrini is justified in being proud of its sweets. This warm, lightly eggy, dark chocolate cake is shot through with chopped toasty hazelnuts; its underlying orange flavour adds a further dimension to its appeal, and a richly vanilla-scented ice cream on the side makes another appealing element. My resistance to all things limoncello – it’s too much like lemon-scented washing up liquid, if you ask me – is challenged by the Pellegrini’s Limoncello cheesecake, which is a whipped creamy mousse on a crushed biscuit base with a lemon jelly layer on the top.

Would I go back to Pellegrini? Yes, if it had a look at its pricing.

Pellegrini, 1075 Argyle Street, Glasgow 0141 221 1136
Food: 7 and a half/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Value for money: 6/10