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
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