Madre mia!

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

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - APPETITES -

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

br­uschetta cros­tini

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

lu­cin­dao­sul­li­van.com

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