At the base of the Malting House Tower, Pizza e Porchetta is tucked beneath a railway bridge off a cobbled street near Grand Canal Square. Formerly The Bridge Bar & Grill, this atmospheric restaurant is in a historic setting, close to the Grand Canal Theatre yet away from passing traffic.
If you’re unfamiliar with the area you’re unlikely to stumble across it by accident - but, since well known restaurateur Ronan Ryan returned to take over the premises he had established with chef Temple Garner before the 'downturn', savvy Dubliners have been beating a path to the door.
Although its pleasing stone walls, smart canopy and glass frontage look normal enough from the street, it's a highly unusual space with the back half tucked right under the railway and trains regularly trundling above.
True to form, Ryan gave this unique interior a seriously cool makeover, with fashionably high communal tables in the front bar area (where cocktails are the speciality du jour) and, in the back section under the bridge, uplighters make a feature of the low curved ceiling while neutral leather banquettes and cute black and white chairs complement chunky bare topped tables.
Pizza and porchetta (succulent pork, layered with herby stuffing and cooked over wood) may be the specialities and the woodfired pizza oven is the star of the show, but excellent handmade pasta and risotto dishes give them a run for their money and there are other popular specials too, including Tom Durkan's rump of beef.
Tapas style sharing plates are feature of the starters - a meat plate (parma ham, coppa, salami finocchiana), for example, and a combo plate for two which also includes cheeses - and other desirable dishes include squid a la plancha (with chilli, rocket and lemon).
There is, of course, a great rendition of classic Marguerita, but the imaginative pizza range offers plenty of combinations that you may not have come across before, including porchetta (sliced roast pork, tomato, mozzarella, chili, herb oil), naturally. Spaghetti with meatballs is another big hit, and gluten free penne is offered instead of regular pasta in any dish.
Desserts may include poached fruit (served with vanilla ice cream, custard and a spiced crumble, perhaps), a welcome ending to any meal and not seen often enough on Irish menus.
The all Italian wine list includes seven wines offered in three sizes - glass, 500ml and 1 litre carafes - and other points of interest include craft beers from Eight Degrees Brewing and apple juice or freshly squeezed orange juice as non alcoholic options; it would be nice also to see Ireland's only commercially produced elderflower cordial, Richmount Elderflower Cordial from Longford, as elderflower is one of the few soft drinks that can be enjoyed in a similar way to wine.
Authenticity begins here with well sourced ingredients (Irish suppliers are listed), which are prepared and cooked with care by Head Chef Pat Lalor and his team; add a dash of ambience and the result is an enjoyable modern Italian outing.