This unassuming eatery is an Italian gem with gorgeous pasta, delectable starters and pizza like you’ve never tasted before, writes Grub Spy Alan Kelly
BAR ITALIA RISTORANTE
6 Ormond Quay Lower, Dublin 1
Food: €94.50; Drinks: €55
I like to think of myself as a courageous reviewer who will drive countless miles to sit in front of countless plates of grub just so our readers don’t have to go off the rails worrying about where to eat. The Boss, myself and a pal decided to check out Bar Italia Ristorante on the corner of Ormond Quay and Bloom Lane. To be honest, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have bypassed this long-established eatery. I suppose the temptation was never there. But I have to say, talk about undiscovered gems. We start with a tomato and mozzarella Caprese salad doused with basil dressing, and some nicely cooked scallops served in pools of lemony cream, garnished with truffle. Both look fantastic — and taste even better. The pasta mains are bloody gorgeous. We love the spaghetti frutti di mare with prawns, mussels and squid in a tomatoey seabass ragout — and especially love the fresh panzerotti, dressed in a heavenly mess of cheesy-creamy-butteriness, and filled with porcini mushrooms. For diners with enthusiastic appetites, you need to look no further. Next up is the big surprise. We Irish know our pizza, right? Neapolitan, New York, Sicilian, thin crust, pan-fried and stuffed. We’ve tried them all. It’s pretty much available everywhere on the planet. I know a guy who’s even had pizza in Bhutan. Still, I’m guessing Pinsa Romana is a new one on most of us. The base, made with rice, spelt and soy flours, with less salt and a little more water, has been a staple in Rome for centuries. Rather than rolled or spun like, say, a traditional Neapolitan base, pinsa dough is finger-pressed into an oval shape. And because of the high water content, it is cooked for longer at a lower temperature. The end result is a base that outside is charred and crispy, while the inside is much much lighter and fluffier. For me, a shameless old-fashioned pizza bore, this is edging close to a white-knuckle pizza ride. Yeah OK, I agree. That does sound a tad over the top. But even so, topped with a rich tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, mushrooms, wild fennel shavings and pork sausage, this is a textural and taste sensation. Also, for those who care about such things, the base is reckoned to be healthier than 00 durum wheat flour. The only misfire of the evening is a tiramisu. It arrives with a hefty waft of chocolate powder, and although taste-wise it is on the button, there are not nearly enough savoiardi fingers. But the meal as a whole just goes to show that you don’t have to travel to the outer reaches to find masterful restaurants serving scrumptious food. Sometimes they are right on your doorstep.