Feather in his Capo

Restau­ra­teur Ro­nan Ryan has brought Cal-Ital-style food to his new Capo restau­rant on Mercer Street Lr, says Lucinda O’Sul­li­van, where open­ing night was awash with cool cats, well-knowns and wannabes

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - APPETITES -

Ro­nan Ryan is a guy who un­der­stands the art of hos­pi­tal­ity. This was ev­i­dent on the open­ing night of his new restau­rant, Capo, which saw a solid turnout of oh-so-cool, mainly black-clad cus­tomers and friends — in­clud­ing a num­ber of well-known faces. Strid­ing the long, gallery-type room, Ryan was at the door to greet ev­ery­one warmly, have the lit­tle chat and make peo­ple feel wel­come and com­fort­able. It’s some­thing ev­ery meeter-greeter should as­pire to, in­stead of the all-too-com­mon, per­func­tory grab of the menus and the silent march to the worst ta­ble in the house.

Ryan has had a long, much­writ­ten-about ca­reer in the restau­rant in­dus­try, his most fa­mous restau­rant be­ing Town Bar & Grill, a haunt of the po­lit­i­cal and me­dia world, be­fore it even­tu­ally ran aground dur­ing the re­ces­sion. He and his wife, Pamela Flood, opened Counter Cul­ture, with a fo­cus on clean eat­ing, a year or so ago, in the Pow­er­scourt Town­house Cen­tre, and this has now moved to a larger venue on Mercer Street Lr. It op­er­ates as Counter Cul­ture dur­ing the day, and, on Fri­day and Satur­day evenings, morphs into Capo, which serves Cal-Ital-style food in a chic, citi­fied at­mos­phere.

Sit­ting with my friend Mary, I mused about how many times I’d whizzed up Mercer Street — not the most at­trac­tive of streets — with­out ever dream­ing that, un­der the Trav­elodge Ho­tel, was this amaz­ing room. Long and nar­row, with a high ceil­ing, it re­minded me of an el­e­gant art gallery.

There was some­thing very cool about sip­ping a glass of chilled white wine, watch­ing the lights of pass­ing cars drift by the dark­ened plate-glass win­dows, while their pi­anist tick­led the ivories.

Starters (€6-€11) in­cluded an Ir­ish seafood chow­der, an an­tipasti plate sport­ing San Daniele Parma ham; coppa; pancetta; fig chut­ney; and sour­dough, avail­able for one or two peo­ple at €11/€19. Chargrilled sar­dines mar­i­nated in lemon oil

CIR­ILLO’S

140 Bag­got Street Lower, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 676-6848 cir­il­los.ie This sum­mer, James Cir­illo hit the ground run­ning with his chic, con­tem­po­rary Ital­ian eatery. Ma­jor­ing in pasta and piz­zas from a high-end wood-fired pizza oven im­ported from Naples, Cir­illo’s also does a great an­tipasti shar­ing plate, as well as house-cured sal­mon with wild gar­lic dress­ing, crispy skin and bread wafers. Price: €8.50-€18 Try: Pizza Nealo — buf­falo ri­cotta, onion, ’nduja, lardo and moz­zarella, €14 Drinks: Cock­tails, wine, beer The main room runs un­der a Dart tun­nel, and this con­tem­po­rary Ital­ian eatery, un­der the ba­ton of Ross Lewis and Lu­ciano Tona, ticks all the right boxes when it comes to at­mos­phere and buzz, along with a taste of rus­tic Italy at good prices. Ev­ery­thing from pizza to pasta, and sa­lumi to sec­ondi is served with panache. Price: €5-€28 Try: Roasted whole quail with spring onion, roast pota­toes, pro­sciutto and monk’s beard, €24 Drinks: Cock­tails, wine Eileen Dunne Crescenzi and Ste­fano Crescenzi brought the con­cept of real Ital­ian ca­sual food to Ire­land. The Sandy­mount branch of their chain of eater­ies is a warm, at­mo­spheric haven — the per­fect es­cape from the real world. From day­time break­fast dishes, pani­nis, an­tipasti and pasta dishes, they also do fab ‘ spe­cialita della sera’. Price: €6.50-€26.50 Try: Tagli­ata di Manzo — beef fil­let, chargrilled and sliced, with mush­rooms and roast pota­toes, €26.50 Drinks: Fab­u­lous Ital­ian wines are served with pick­led beet; while ri­cotta is ac­com­pa­nied by car­rot, beet­root and rocket. Mary had charred prawns with white wine, chillies and lemon (€10), which sat on crisp tranches of br­uschetta, scat­tered with herbs.

I had a cock­tail of full-flavoured soft-shell crab with Marie Rose sauce on shred­ded let­tuce (€11), spiked with chive spears, which was a sim­ple but ef­fec­tive up­date on the tra­di­tional prawn cock­tail.

A num­ber of the mains (€16€25) ap­pealed to us both. Pas­tas in­cluded with sausage and red pesto, while surf clam lin­guine in­cor­po­rated pancetta, chillies, gar­lic and white wine. A 10oz Ir­ish An­gus rib-eye with caramelised Marsala onions and fries was there for the steak lover; as was con­fit free-range Ir­ish chicken supreme with cep risotto.

Mary’s pump­kin and sage ravi­oli (€17), with lemon and chest­nut but­ter brown sauce, was the per­fect au­tum­nal choice. My choice of a large tranche of line-caught tuna (€23) was seared and served on zingy ar­ti­choke with rose­mary roasted pota­toes.

From a dessert menu which in­cluded a se­lec­tion of ice cream and sor­bet, and a rather nov­el­sound­ing tiramisu bar, we shared a lovely lit­tle lemon tart, tweaked with a split straw­berry, black­berry, and a scoop of (€6) of gor­geous rum-and-raisin ice cream.

The cheese se­lec­tion (€11) fea­tured two Ital­ian and two Ir­ish cheeses — Ta­leg­gio, Fon­tal, Daru and Knock­drinna.

With a bot­tle of de­li­cious, strawyel­low, dry but lightly aro­matic, Vene­tian Pinot Bianco Gar­ganega blend, La Cavea 2015 (€25) — also avail­able by the glass at €7 — our bill, with two espres­sos (€2.75 each) and op­tional ser­vice, came to €119.35.

orec­chi­ette caponata

Capo Dublin, 3 Mercer Street Lr, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 679-9225 ca­porestau­rant.ie

for­mag­gio lu­cin­dao­sul­li­van.com ’nduja

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