Although it is in the Kildare Village designer shopping outlet, this outpost of the small chain of high quality Italian restaurants run by Dunne & Crescenzi (see Dublin entries) is the only Italian restaurant in Kildare town and attracts diners who may not necessarily be on a shopping spree at all.
Warmly lit, with lots of wood and an outside eating area, this stylish restaurant has a comfortable casual-chic ambience and is well-located within the village, with views of the Grey Abbey ruins, giving it real atmosphere as a dining destination rather than just a place for a quick bite.
You may expect the usual Dunne & Crescenzi signatures - although simple, the food is based on the best seasonal local produce and authentic Italian ingredients, and it is consistently high quality that has earned these restaurants a loyal following: D.O.P. products (EU certified authentic artisan produce) are used, notably cheese, salumi (cured meats), olive oils and vinegar.
Open throughout the day, you can have anything from a wholesome snack (panini, bruschetta or their famous antipasti) to a relaxed dinner: among many delicious dishes offered, risotto con radicchio e salsiccia al vino rosso (risotto with radicchio, Italian sausage & red Tuscan wine) is one speciality.
Children are made exceptionally welcome, as is so often the way in Italian restaurants, and another high point of the L'Officina experience is the Kids Menu (€9, for under 12s). Offering a proper, freshly prepared sized down Italian meal based on top quiality ingredients, it aims to "Bring out the foodie in your little one" and is a great example of how to do things right for junior diners.
How often do you come across a children's menu where the sourcing and nutritional benefits are explained? The free range beef in the ragu, for example, "is delivered by Mr. Gilligan, straight from his farm in Roscommon"...the Grana Trentino cheese, matured for 24 months, "is rich in vitamins ABD and is a wonderful source of calcium for young children. Extra virgin olive oil provides a good source of vitamin E."
The vegetarian option, Pasta with fresh tomato sauce, served with a good dollop of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with Grana cheese is "a good meal for active children". It even gets a personal endorsement from Eileen Dunne Crescenzi herself, who says “Pappa al pomodoro was a favourite in our home when the children were growing up and now it’s a favourite with our grandchildren.” And quality remains the theme right to the end, as the gelato for your little one is "prepared using all-natural ingredients".
For the adults, a very tempting alternative to a late lunch might be their Afternoon Tea menu: available from 3pm it's a delightful variation on traditional afternoon tea, offering foccaccia bread with Italian cured meats and cheeses in place of the usual finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones (with whipped cream and Mrs G's jam) for those who crave an Irish treat, and then home baked biscotti and dessert of the day for a luscious Italian finale.
The wine list is not a weighty tome but well chosen, and offers many treats. Very reasonably priced house wines are available by the bottle, half carafe or glass - and the glass of prosecco suggested to give your Afternoon Tea a special lift is a gift, at €10 for two.