Now at the atmospheric Bridge Mills, the new Il Vicolo is much more spacious than its previous incarnation.
Run by Gerry McMahon and his partner Aoife, who began it all in a tiny corner cafe and wine bar off Shop Street in Galway city centre, Il Vicolo was born out of their shared devotion to Italian food and wine. Despite the small space, plain bare wooden furniture and a miniscule kitchen in full view, the original Il Vicolo became popular very quickly - but, with just 25 seats and a further kitchen across the street, its days were inevitably numbered.
Over at Bridge Mills, the River Corrib runs underneath the main room, where the original mill wheel is a focal point, and the wine bar is flanked by two handsome stone dining rooms. A pleasant buzz, downtempo jazz and a stunning riverside terrace create a relaxed atmosphere and and, like Gerry himself, the keen and mainly Italian staff seem to be enjoying themselves.
The cooking is northern Italian, specifically that of Venice where the lagoonside location means that fresh fish are cherished, simply seasoned with olive oil, vinegar, garlic and herbs. Creamy risotto, polenta and, of course, pasta also feature in these regional recipes and this is reflected in native Venetian cooking.
The lunch menu offers rustic soups, bruschetta, panini and substantial salads; also excellent coffee, as you'd expect, as well as cakes and other elegant desserts. Lunch here can cost as little as €10, and there is also some good value to be found on the evening menu.
You can have a glass of wine at the bar, just as in a traditional Venetian bàcaro, with some spunciotti, Venetian-style crostini or cicchetti, small tapas-like dishes, which are priced between five and eleven euro. This is an extensive list with choices from courgette flowers stuffed with béchamel and cured meat in a light batter to 'insalata di Polpo', a salad of octopus with diced potato, celery and cherry tomatoes. The à la carte features pasta, risotto, steak and fish dishes, complete with a selection of meat and cheese boards, so dinner can be pricier.
The exclusively Italian wine list has an emphasis on artisan wines and is enthusiastically promoted by Gerry. It lists many covetable bottles from the big name Italian wine regions along with a few surprises that span the entire peninsula. A range of Italian beer is also served and both Peroni and Moretti are available on tap.
Having brought an enthusiastic following across the river to such an atmospheric spot, this delightful Italian wine bar and restaurant is successfully charming a whole new wave of happy customers.