A new Ital­ian star

With a pedi­gree in Ital­ian food, great things were ex­pected from Cir­illo’s, James Cir­illo’s new Dublin restau­rant, says Lucinda O’Sul­li­van — and with au­then­tic food in a cool set­ting, she wasn’t let down

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - CONTENTS -

Ire­cently wrote about Nico’s, one of the old­est Ital­ian restau­rants in Dublin, and this week I’m writ­ing about the new­est, which has just been opened by the next gen­er­a­tion of the same fam­ily. Emilio Cir­illo took over Nico’s in 1977, and, al­most 40 years later, his nephew, James Cir­illo, has just opened Cir­illo’s on Lower Bag­got Street. The two es­tab­lish­ments are like chalk and cheese — Nico’s is tra­di­tional in the best sense, with not a pizza in sight; while Cir­illo’s of­fers au­then­tic Ital­ian food, from a snappy lit­tle menu of an­tipasti, pasta dishes and wood-fired piz­zas, in the chicest of set­tings, at great prices.

A lot of thought has gone into what looks like a sim­ple op­er­a­tion. The pizza oven was im­ported from Naples and burns a blend of Ir­ish oak and ash; the pizza dough is slow-proved for 30 hours us­ing a recipe from the head piz­zaiolo, Luca; pasta, pizza dough, breads and ice creams are all freshly made in-house ev­ery day. It of­fers a choice of re­gional wines from bou­tique pro­duc­ers, along with craft beers, and, as the per­fect aper­i­tif, a choice of five takes on the pop­u­lar Ital­ian Spritz.

On two lev­els, retro for­est-green leather ban­quettes blend with bare ce­ment walls, bent­wood chairs, white tiles, and vin­tage brass lights. We were there on its first night and were quickly brought a com­pli­men­tary Aperol Spritz (Aperol, Prosecco and soda wa­ter). Aperol is sim­i­lar to my favourite, Cam­pari — low al­co­hol, and a par­tic­u­larly lovely drink in sum­mer with a slice of or­ange.

An­tipasti (€8-€13) in­cluded the ever-pop­u­lar cala­mari, but here it comes with black gar­lic aioli; while salmon crudo is house­cured and served with a car­rot salad, wild gar­lic dress­ing and crispy skin. A lit­tle br­uschetta plate in­cor­po­rated mar­i­nated toma­toes, pick­led an­chovies and mascarpone, and wild gar­lic pesto and mush­room. My friend Paul had arancini (€8) — deep-fried rice balls — which were three lovely, moist ‘golf balls’ stuffed with tomato, moz­zarella and basil, with gor­gonzola dip and basil olive oil. I had a se­lec­tion of Ital­ian cured meats (€13) which was all it should be (but very of­ten isn’t) with five dif­fer­ent types of salami, Ital­ian sausage and pro­sciutto, el­e­gantly ar­ranged in folds along­side a salad of cured veg­eta­bles, which pro­vided the per­fect con­trast to the rich oili­ness of the meats. With this, there was a plate of de­li­cious char­grilled flat­bread. Pasta dishes (€16) in­cluded

pap­pardelle with braised short rib, tomato ragu and wild gar­lic pesto; casarecce with ham hock, lard, cavolo nero and crispy skin in a car­bonara sauce. I had the third op­tion — a big bowl of fusilli with crab, chilli, mar­i­nated crisp as­para­gus and chilli oil, which was as de­li­cious as it was light and sum­mery, sans any creamy or heavy el­e­ment. Ten piz­zas (€11.50 — €14) in­cluded the pop­u­lar Margherita; Mari­nara; and Di­avola; but also a Parmi­giana with fried aubergine and dou­ble Parme­san. Paul had a Car­bonara pizza (€14), which was richly lav­ished with moz­zarella, egg, pecorino, guan­ciale and black pep­per. It was de­li­cious, but, hav­ing had the sub­stan­tial starter and flat­breads, he couldn’t eat a lot of it. Although we protested, as there was noth­ing wrong with it, they in­sisted on re­mov­ing it from the bill.

Be­tween us, how­ever, we man­aged to thor­oughly en­joy a de­li­cious slice of dark truf­fle cake (€7) with a quenelle of ice cream. So, with two glasses of Si­cil­ian Cento Cavalli Grillo, 2014 (€8 each), bottled wa­ter (€2.50) and a dou­ble espresso (€2.50), our bill with op­tional ser­vice, which was de­light­ful, came to €75.

Will I ever be able to get in here again — let’s keep it a se­cret!

Cir­illo’s 140 Lower Bag­got Street, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 676-6848 cir­il­los.ie

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