In a terrific location, just across the road from Dublin Castle, PJ and Dee Butuci’s pleasing Italian restaurant has an unusual USP - about 70% of the seasonal organic produce used comes from their own Co Wicklow farm: “The farmhouse gardens are an integral part of our philosophy towards cooking and healthy lifestyle, and we believe that our customers should eat as well as we do at home.”
It’s not a fancy place but the space is nicely divided, tables are well sized for comfortable enjoyment of a meal - and the fact that they are a bit close together contributes to the buzzy atmosphere. Interestingly, the panelled walls on the ground floor are lined with dozens of large black and white photos, not of the usual film stars but of normal Italians going about their daily lives.
Menus are written in Italian, with an English translation, and there seems to be one for every part of the day from lunch through to dinner. There’s an Express Lunch Monday to Friday with the menu changing weekly; there’s a set lunch at the weekend. A three-course pre-theatre early dinner is popular with theatre goers; The Romantic Dinner – available some months of the year – is excellent value at €50 for two. And groups can avail of either a set menu or an a la carte, depending on the number of people.
All the usual Italian fare is available, from antipasti, meat, chicken and fish. Don’t expect elaborate presentation, but the cooking is good and tasty dishes such as Pollo Alla Toscana (chicken supreme with spinach, three cheeses, wrapped in Parma ham, white wine & mustard cream) or Duck Salad (garden rocket and mixed leaves with warm fresh duck, cherry tomatoes, and sweet balsamic & parmesan shavings) are spot on. The expected pastas and pizzas are there too, of course, made with flour imported from Naples, and children are well looked after, with healthy choices available seven days a week.
Desserts include favourites like panna cotta, a well-made Tiramisu or a Crema al limone freddo, a zesty lemon cream with fresh berries.
Wines, all Italian, are from many of the major wine areas – Lombardy, Tuscany, Piedmonte, Sicily, Umbria. Wines are available by the glass or by the half bottle and there is also a wine of the month. Cocktails are available too - and, unusually, include a range of smoothies using their own fresh fruit in season.