Marco and Laura Roccasalvos’ popular and authentically Italian restaurant has a relaxed, informal atmosphere and menus that are extensive without sacrificing quality, so it is likely to be busy most evenings.
A four-course Cheap & Chic Tasting Menu offers exceptional value (unrestricted time except for Friday and Saturday) and a short lunch menu is offered on Sundays and bank holiday Mondays. The choice for dinner is wide-ranging and includes a large selection of starters, seafood (although not all options will be available at any one time), meat and pasta as well as a few side dishes. They make their pizzas in the Risto-Market around the corner now, which is why you won’t find pizza on the menu at the restaurant, but they are happy to let you order one and will bring it across for you if you wish.
Starters include Italian staples such as minestrone and bruschetta al pomodoro, but for something special, try the panella infernale, a bruschetta made with homemade bread and homemade nduja (a spicy, spreadable chilli salami), or the salsicce al sugo, homemade pork and fennel sausages in a vibrant tomato sauce.
All the pasta, whether it’s ravioli, the pasta sheets in the lamb shoulder lasagna or tagliatelle, is homemade. One of their signature dishes is the tonnarelli all’astice e gamberi, homemade egg spaghetti with half a lobster, tiger prawns and Italian hill tomatoes, and is justifiably popular. The ravioli di salmone, homemade ravioli filled with organic Irish salmon with a butter and sage sauce, is also excellent, while the RisottOro, risotto with smoked provola cheese, Prosecco and real gold flakes, is certainly not your everyday kind of dish.
Main meat courses cover all the bases, including a chicken supreme, Irish lamb shoulder, fillet of beef or an Italian stew made with beef, lamb and pork. All the beef is 100% Irish and is sourced from a respected local butcher, Frank Doyle, and is of exceptional quality. The Piedmontese breed is also Irish and is reared in Co. Laois.
Seafood options include a tuna loin in tomato sauce with green olives and capers, a steamed fillet of local salmon or a whole local lobster with tiger prawns, mussels and tomato sauce. Or you can order the grigliata mista di pesce for one, two, three or four people – a large assortment of grilled fish dressed with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
A unique feature of the menu here is all the tasting options for those who want to try a little of everything. For starters, you can get two different antipasto platters, while for mains, a vegetarian, seafood and meat tasting menu are available, with the option of adding a glass of Prosecco or two glasses of matching wines.
Half a dozen homemade desserts are offered, including a panna cotta that changes regularly, an excellent baked ricotta cheesecake, homemade tiramisu or the traditional cantucci biscuits served with Vin Santo dessert wine. Or if you’re having trouble making up your mind, try the tris de Campo: a selection of three desserts.
The wine list, which is exclusively Italian, is extensive and is arranged by region. If you’re pushing the boat oat, the list also has a separate section for the best reds in their cellar, with bottles ranging from €35 to €195.
Service is friendly and chatty – the Italian staff are clearly passionate about food and wine and are keen to make suggestions, making you feel well looked after.
This unassuming restaurant has a well-deserved following, merited by the excellent quality of the authentic, homemade food, the large choice of wine and the relaxed atmosphere. A real find.
*The original Campo de Fiori premises, nearby on Albert Avenue is now operated as a shop/deli, Risto-Market, and is also a popular daytime venue and for casual evening meals.