Italian food is the planet’s hands-down, uncontested crowd-pleaser. Kkazakh or Kenyan, Haitian or Hungarian, Japanese or Javanese, Peruvian or Polish, Iraqi or Irish, it’s the culinary repertoire of ‘il bel paese’ that gets a universal thumbs-up.

Me personally? I’m wary of Italian food, although only in one respect: its farinaceous dishes. Theoretically, I eat a low carb diet.

These days, for me to eat a dish of refined carbs, the indulgence has to be worth the consequent spike in my insulin levels. So I don’t any longer even see those boxes of nutrient-depleted breakfasts cereals, all those apologies for bread products, all that ghastly British confectionery. For most standard starchy, pappy, sugary products, I ooze relatively effortless reserves of resistance.

But then there are carbohydrate dishes that I absolutely can’t resist, dishes so seductive that I’ll instantly grant them a derogation.

Low-carb, as a remind myself, doesn’t mean no carb. Iranian Chelo ba Tahdig, that intoxicating steamed rice with its golden crust, or a proper Pakistani biryani? You’d need willpower of steel not to crack under such persuasion.

But back in Italy, the lure is the hand-made pasta, those cosseting dishes that are all about just a few good ingredients, and technique that is ‘simple’, providing you have been schooled in the time-honoured method.

So no sooner do I pick up the menu in Terra Marique than there’s one dish that’s leaping out, shouting ‘Eat me!” Pan-fried gnocchi di patate with radicchio and Gorgonzola. I mean, stop right there, I’ve been ambushed.

And there is a further assailant: homemade trofie- the characteristic Ligurian pasta, those dainty little rolls with their tapering ends- with sausage, saffron, and broccoli. Just intoning this description has an hypnotic effect. I’m already bewitched.

And once I’ve sampled them, I can’t remember having better pasta than in Italy. These gnocchi are simultaneously soft, slippy, squidgy-smooth. The glossy sauce that coats them and pools just a little in the bottom of the bowl has a subtle blue cheese length to it that gradually discloses itself in the mouth, a creamy, salty blueness that strokes you, like slipping your bare feet into sheepskin slippers.

It makes a foil for the lingering bitterness of the radicchio, which has turned the sauce a pale lilac hue. The merest trace of fried sage leaf adds a herby, pleasantly musty whiff.

As for these trofie, they are, well, perfect, and the dish as a whole nearly is too, except that there’s a garlic flavour that vies with the saffron.

With the garlic toned down a bit, this dish, with its rich, yet dry crumbled sausage and fine shavings of just blanched Romanesco broccoli stem and root, would be sheer bliss. Actually, all our savoury dishes have been pretty good at Terra Marique: the vellutata di fagioli, a solidly flavourful, thick, earthy-tasting soup with kale through it, topped with fine shreds of crunchy pig’s ear and a crisped up whole kale leaf; three scallops- of unexceptional quality- elevated by an inimitable caponata of fondant aubergine, onions, raisins, mellow olives and toasted pine nuts that strikes a gentle vinegar note.

And so to the Achilles heel of Italian restaurant cooking: sweet things. Ice cream, made in the kitchen, an amateurish coffee praline one with ice crystals through it, the other vanilla, with that OTT vanilla taste I associate with French supermarket crème brulée, and pannacotta that has a trampoline bounce and a bullying clementine/mandarin orange glaze. Still the homemade Pugliese bread, with its loose, yellowish crumb was a bit of alright.

I’d pop in here just for the pasta, more than the place. The staid furniture puts me in mind of a bedroom in a Hilton hotel; it feels corporate, and a little cold and dark with its navy blue walls, obtrusively white contrasting woodwork, and high gloss, teak-coloured tables.

The dining area spans two-levels, which means the space doesn’t really flow, and conviviality dissipates as surely as respiration. Its open kitchen gets a little lost in the sprawl.

A clever restaurant designer could tweak and transform it, I’m sure.

Terra Marique, 36 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh 01312290070


Food: 8/10

Atmosphere: 6/10

Service: 9/10

Value: 7/10