University Court, Castletroy, Limerick ¤ realitalianfoodies.com / facebook.com/lacucina Whenever I take a trip to Dingle, which is usually once a year for the Other Voices festival in December, I make a pitstop halfway to a little Italian café off the motorway in Castletroy, Limerick. I first became aware of La Cucina through the blog and tweets of its owner Lorraine Fanneran. “@italianfoodie will you have space for two hungry pizza lovers at around 2.30 this afternoon?” I’d tweet, somewhere around Roscrea. “@aoifeforkful of course!” would come the reply. “We’ll get the dough ready for you.”
Lorraine and her partner Bruno (the Pizza Boss and son of Italian immigrants ) opened La Cucina in a business estate in Castletroy in 2003, and have been dishing out freshly made pizzas, great ciabatta sandwiches and Italian salads ever since. It’s a casual spot. In fact, it’s won Best Casual Dining a couple of times at the Irish Restaurant Awards. On a good day, the Limerick sun spills in through its windows into this small, buzzing space.
Their pizzas range in price from just over ¤10 to ¤13.50 and all the classics are there, from the margherita to the fiorentina. You can get a bowl of pasta amatriciana (¤10.50) or a plate of bruschetta parma (¤6.50).
They also launched their own range of Real Italian Foodies pasta sauces, which you can pick up at the shop or on their online store. This is a family business worth supporting. Go visit. And make sure you send them a tweet when you’re nearby.
SHELL’S CAFÉ AND LITTLE SHOP
Strandhill, Co Sligo, 071-9122938 ¤ shellscafe.com Jane and Myles Lamberth were looking for the good life and found it in Strandhill, Co Sligo. They opened their seaside café and bakery in 2006, thinking it might be a seasonal gig and that they could spend the rest of the year surfing. But then they got really busy. Turns out people travel for a great brunch.
This blue-hued café looks out onto the Sligo shore, and on a sunny day, you can sit outside on their benches and feel like you’re living Jane and Myles’ dream. Take a walk around the beach and come back ready for nourishment.
They have specials on every week. You might be lucky and catch their Buttermilk Pancakes with dry cured bacon (¤6.95) or maybe their roast chicken, avocado, halloumi, cheese and spicy mayo toastie (¤9.50 with a side salad and chips).
They love doing breakfast salads as well; when I was last in I had a pork belly salad which came with chunks black pudding and a perfectly poached egg. Woah, momma.
They’re open from 9am-6pm Mon-Sunday, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s homemade cakes, Irish-roasted coffee and glasses of wine on offer, too. They opened a shop next door selling some of their favourite things. There’s food produce, ceramics, fancy paper and other lovely things. Oh, and did I mention the couple have written two cookbooks? Turns out you can get a lot done when you’re living your dream.