I find Italian food in this city to be puzzling. Ask around and everyone has their favourite and almost all of them are dreadful, old contrived places that have forced accents and dried pasta. The old brigade of these is still strong in Birmingham; in Harborne, in Moseley, some further out in the suburbs. In the city centre, St Pauls, and the Jewellery Quarter, all surviving on the same custom eating the same menu from the 1980’s. Each with crostini and Caprese, carpaccio galore, frozen prawns with chilli and garlic, frutti di (night)mares, rissoto, and pizza. There is always bloody pizza and it’s almost aways dreadful. You know what I’m talking about because your order at these places has never changed. There is little Italian about it other than the name across the door; this is British Italian, just how we like it. Polite, straight-up missionary with the socks on. Parmesan on everything. Big twist of the knob-shaped giant pepper grinder. It is as consistent as your morning bowel movement, as dependable as a Toyota Corolla.

For years if you asked me where to eat Italian I’d send you to the place at Five Ways where the chef used to be Italian and they make fresh pasta every day. But now Italian food in Birmingham is interesting. We have options. Tropea, at the top of Harborne High Street is phenomenally good, and more recently Trentina in the Jewellery Quarter, a place I’m at for lunch for, which is similar in offering. Small plates and pastas. It’s all the rage.

The inside is a pretty space of faux-carrara marble and mint green, not dissimilar to London’s Lina Stores, if you happen to know it. We start with an excellent negroni and a slushie bastardisation of garibaldi and sbagliato, before moving onto a very good Sicilian house red. There is foccacia, superb foccacia, brackish and light, and stracciatella – the creamy innards of a mozzarella – dressed in bitter leaves and basil oil. Most remarkable is the aubergine parmigiana, a dish even the best of restaurants cock-up. Here the aubergine has proper texture, pinned down with one of the best tomato sauces I can recall eating. The sauce speaks of real depth, of pin-point seasoning, lifted by a touch of sweet and the hit of acid. I’ve not eaten a better rendition, here or in Italy.

What impresses most about the pasta dishes is the level of execution which wouldn’t be out of place in a Michelin-starred kitchen. Take the ragu; the brunoise of the mirepoix is precise and from trained hands. And if that poncy talk has lost you a little, I’ve just said that the base of celery, carrot, and onion was diced to exactly 3mm. It matters. The ragu is robust and beefy, with the beef shin braised until it offers little objection to being eaten with a spoon. The pasta is superb; light and with a little bite, it is as good as any pasta in the city. They get that texture is a thing when eating, and the result is a dish that is very impressive. Another pasta dish – this time a crab ravioli – is loaded with the funk of the brown meat. The puddle of bisque it bathes in is expertly made, and I think I make out a suggestion of brandy loitering at the back. It’s all very, very good.

The bill is a touch over £70 between two and represents outstanding value. Given the somewhat mixed opinions I’d heard during the early days, I was not expecting it to be this good. Truth is Trentina is excellent; really classic Italian flavours delivered in a smart and intelligent way. There is a lot to love here. I can see it being a regular trip.