Un­im­pressed by a new Ital­ian chain

With 143 branches in the UK, a new Zizzi pizza and pasta restau­rant has just opened at Dun­drum Town Cen­tre. But, af­ter her visit, Lucinda O’Sul­li­van couldn’t help feel­ing that per­haps she’d found a weak link in this chain

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - NEWS - lu­cin­dao­sul­li­van.com

Is deny­ing you the ta­ble you de­sire the ul­ti­mate power trip for a maitre d’? Over the years, I’ve been put by the toi­let or the kitchen door many times, with the en­su­ing traf­fic of ‘ur­gent’ din­ers or fraz­zled wait­per­sons. As for the prized win­dow seat — “You’d have to book that three months in ad­vance”, I was told smugly in one place. How­ever, what re­ally drives me crazy is when, with other ta­bles avail­able, they plonk you right be­side other din­ers, en­sur­ing no­body can have a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion.

And so it was when we ar­rived into Zizzi’s at Dun­drum Town Cen­tre, the lat­est UK pasta-and­pizza restau­rant chain to hit our shores. With 143 branches, Zizzi’s is owned by the Az­zurri Group, who also own the Coco di Mama and Ask Ital­ian chains. Zizzi’s had only just opened and we were in for ‘lin­ner’ be­cause, hav­ing spent ages try­ing to get through on the phone, we could only get a ta­ble at 5.15pm. The place was jointed, but a corner ta­ble at the end of the ban­quette, to the right of the wide-open kitchen, two empty ta­bles away from the next din­ers, looked good.

How­ever, he who was seat­ing us tried gamely to put us shoul­derto-shoul­der with the other din­ers. “I nor­mally stand there,” he said, in­di­cat­ing the space in front of the re­quested ta­ble. “So, do you not ‘let’ that ta­ble all night?” I fi­nally asked. He re­lented.

This space was for­merly a Mex­i­can eatery, on a strip of ca­sual eater­ies that in­cludes Nando’s, The Counter, and Jamie’s Ital­ian — which would be Zizzi’s big­gest ri­val — and the decor here is cool ur­ban rus­tic, dom­i­nated by a strik­ing wall mu­ral of birds and leaves by artist Fuch­sia MacAree, over­look­ing two cage-like sec­tion-break­ers.

A peo­ple-pleaser menu, with prices rang­ing broadly from €5.95-€17.95, had all the stal­warts — cala­mari; arancini; risotto; pasta; an­tipasti boards; piz­zas (clas­sic, rus­tica, skinny); two skew­ered dishes; plus short ribs; or chicken wrapped in pro­sciutto.

A quin­tet of but­ter­flied king

prawns (€9.75), pan-fried in smoky capia pep­per with gar­lic but­ter and white wine, were served on wa­ter­cress with two ‘Lit­tle Soul’ soft, doughy bread balls. The dish looked dry and dark, but the prawns were tasty. The Zizzi an­tipasti (€8.50) prof­fered pro­sciutto; speck;

coppa; finoc­chiona (which they were out of ); buf­falo moz­zarella; bal­samic to­ma­toes; and olives. Served on a long, nar­row board, two more big bread balls filled half the space, so I wasn’t go­ing to suf­fer a pro­tein over­load with this dish.

Mov­ing on, my friend Paul thor­oughly en­joyed his long, rec­tan­gu­lar rus­tica pizza pi­cante (€16.25), which was at­trac­tively em­bel­lished with blobs of spicy nduja sausage, moz­zarella, salami, pep­per­oni, roquito chill­ies, mush­rooms, rocket and mas­car­pone. Again, I didn’t fare as well with my fritto misto (€17.25), it be­ing far too fritto- ed! With a lit­tle mis­er­able sec­tion of lemon and an equally mis­er­able-look­ing lit­tle bowl of mayo, it lacked all the airy light­ness of what should be the flash-fried favourite of many Italophiles. Search­ing among the cala­mari rings, I found the em­bers of a cou­ple of prawns that a few sprin­kles of chopped chilli weren’t go­ing to re­vive, but at least I was en­joy­ing a tiny lit­tle side order of plain spaghetti — ridicu­lously priced at €7.95. Paul’s white choco­late cheese­cake (€6.75) bore no re­sem­blance to the menu pic­ture. With all the joy of a fallen souf­fle, it was dense and claggy. Our server was de­light­ful, and, with a lovely Si­cil­ian Man­drarossa Viog­nier 2014 (€23.35), bot­tled wa­ter (€5.45) and op­tional ser­vice, our bill came to €105. Dough makes dough . . . it can sure rise up. Zizzi, 3 Pem­broke District, Dun­drum Town Cen­tre, Dublin 16. Tel: (01) 296-2962 zizzi.co.uk

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