Temple Bar may be better known for its night life than the quality of its restaurants, but one establishment sits head and shoulders above all others. Luca di Marzio’s Rosa Madre could have been transplanted from Puglia or Tuscany, with its traditional Italian cooking, continental vibe and old school hospitality.
The handsome stone building with big windows would be easy to walk past, so keep a sharp eye out for it - and the first thing you’ll notice is the fresh fish counter inside the door, showcasing a spread of delicious seafood on ice, which plays a big part in the menu (written in Italian with English translations). Should owner Luca serve you, you won’t need a menu, as he will talk you through the dishes, ingredients and cooking techniques like a stage performance, making each dish sound more delicious than the next. It’s fun and mesmerising and may tempt you to try something you wouldn’t normally order.
The decor is smart casual, with linen tablecloths, exposed brick, large windows, floorboards and leather banquettes. It’s a comfortable, convivial space, both at ground level and mezzanine, with shelves lined with wine bottles, reflecting a decent wine list, which has plenty of options by the glass.
Starters might include burrata with fresh figs and prosciutto, or a salad of sautéed baby octopus. Pasta offerings are strong, and include ravioli al tartufo, a ravioli made in-house by chef Francesco Mambelli from Pesaro, with ricotta and black truffle and served in a classic sage butter.
Whole fish is a house speciality, with you choosing both your fish and the cooking method of grilled, oven cooked or salt-crusted; the latter taking maybe a whole sea bass and baking it in shell of sea salt, to keep the flesh moist and seal in flavour. Presented on a large central dish, with simple sides, maybe mixed grilled aubergine, courgette and peppers, it’s a simple, honest dish with lovey fresh flavours.
There’s plenty on offer for vegetarians – butternut squash risotto with creamy burrata is a speciality – and meat lovers will find classics like dry-aged rib eye, lamb shank or pork scaloppini in lemon sauce.
Desserts include freshly made cannolo stuffed with ricotta and excellent tiramisu, and, just as you’d hope, the coffee is good.
More often than not, you’ll find expat Italians dining here, enjoying the authentic food of home and warm Italian welcome. The lively atmosphere, well trained staff, well-priced menu and delicious food make Rosa Madre the perfect spot for any occasion.