We have lots of Italian restaurants in Ireland, though many are of the pizza/pasta fast-food variety, says Lucinda O’Sullivan. However, from gnocchi to garlic squid, Rosa Madre on Dublin’s Crow Street offers a true taste of Italy
How long had it been since I’d seen a wet-fish counter in a restaurant, I wondered, as I looked at the selection of fish of all shapes and sizes; their shiny skins and bright eyes enticing me. Then I began to wonder how many places here actually bake fish, entombed in a crust of salt, and present it at the table, for all the theatrical drama of cracking it open and setting the deliciously moist results free. I could have been in Portofino or Rome, or perhaps even an Italian stalwart in Soho, but we were in the narrow streets of Temple Bar, in Rosa Madre, a new Italian restaurant owned by Luca De Marzio.
People love Italian food, but what we mostly have here are pizza and pasta places (some very good little authentic places, too); others are veritable fast-food cash cows, sloshing out tons and tons of red sauce. This is why I’m so glad that De Marzio didn’t take the easy way out with his new eatery. Instead, he has gone for the higher end, with an authentic Italian restaurant of style, and good food, prepared by chef Francesco Mambelli, who hails from Pesaro on Italy’s Adriatic coast.
Now, I don’t want to frighten the horses, as it were, because there’s lots for the fella who likes his plain, or mamma’s meatballs, or a rib-eye steak, but it’s great to see the starters (€8-€12) include with really good, juicy capers and lardo di Colonnata; baby octopus; carpaccio of sea bass or beef; oysters; and pan-fried garlic squid and king prawns served with spicy spinach. We would have been happy with any of those, had the ebullient Luca not enticed us with shellfish specials.
My friend Paul fell for fingerlicking prawns (€13), split down the middle, grilled with butter and garlic, and served, fan-like, on a big, colourful Mediterranean plate; while I had a threesome of scallops (€14), which were sprinkled with fine breadcrumbs, and baked
Since moving to their new premises overlooking the Grand Canal, the food from Ivano, Attilo and Gianni has got better and better. Think pan-fried scallops with Martini Bianco, or the traditional vitello tonnato alla Piemontese — sliced veal with tuna — and wines from over 50 different Italian producers. Price: €6.95-€21.95 Try: Anatra al Marsala — Barbary duck breast baked in Marsala and plums, €20.95 Drinks: Cocktails, beer, wine Think rhubarb martinis, Sicilian goat meatballs, fried olives stuffed with Tuscan sausage, or ‘sharing roasts’, at this knockout Belfast Italian. Part of the Thornyhill Restaurant Group, they also have Coppi; Pastificio; and more recently Bartali, which is at Portballintrae; and are wowing punters across the North. Price: £3.50-£18.50 Try: Duck ragu, served with gnocchi, spinach, red wine and truffle, £12.50 Drinks: Cocktails, beer, wine Here, Italy meets Ireland through Michelin chefs Ross Lewis and Luciano Tona’s passion for slowgrown food from the Italian and Irish terroir, served simply and with style. Olives are filled with spiced veal and pork; while salumi from Parma, Piacenza and Lucania melds perfectly on plates with pistachio salami from west Cork. Price: €5-€28 Try: Long ricciarelli pasta, with salsa saffron, organic mussels, white clams and smoked salmon, €21 Drinks: Cocktails, beer, wine in their shells. Who doesn’t love this classical Italian food, simply cooked, with no tiering, or hiding under forests? It’s timeless, all about flavour, and just delicious.
Pastas and mains (€12-€25) include home-made ricotta and black truffle ravioli, in a butter and sage sauce; while pasta is served with (
soft, spicy pork sausage), fresh tomatoes, basil and pecorino. Gnocchi is accompanied by Atlantic prawns, tomato sauce and pecorino, while a risotto of carnaroli rice is served with cream of butternut squash and fresh All the fresh fish of the day (€5 per 100g) are cooked three ways: grilled, oven baked, or the aforementioned saltcrusted — you choose your fish and the cooking style. The same applies to a whole lobster (€8 per 100g) and Tomahawk rib-eye on the bone (€6 per 100g with a minimum of 1kg). The big-beefers will love that.
Happily, Paul’s tastes are simpler and he loved his
(€15), three escalopes of pork, which were pan-fried with a light lemon sauce, served with sauteed spinach and a side of oven-baked baby potatoes (€4). I had (€25) which didn’t disappoint either. It had a half lobster chopped and tossed in the pasta, with a delicious, light cherry tomato sauce.
We finished with La Casearia Carpenedo Blue 61 (€8.50), a wonderfully pungent blue cheese from Treviso. Washed in red wine and topped with cranberries, Blue 61 is a major award-winner — you will also find it in the posh Hotel Meurice in Paris — but you only have to go to Crow Street!
With a bottle of superb fruity Arboreo Pecorino 2015 (€33), bottled water (€4.50) and optional service, our bill came to €130.
— full marks.
nduja ( limone paccheri guanciale pancetta), tonnarelli all’astice A pieni voti burrata. scaloppina al
Rosa Madre, 7 Crow Street, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 551-1206 rosamadre.ie