Temple Bar on a Bank Holiday weekend can often be a sight to behold, make that a Halloween Bank Holiday weekend and God knows what may be in store. That said, we tackled the cobbles and the many merry revellers who were out in force for the extended ghoulish break and found ourselves very fortunate to secure a 9pm booking on what seemed to be one of the busiest night of the year for restaurants so far.
Il Vicoletto is a bit of an Italian institution in these parts, set opposite its other much loved Italian neighbours Rosa Madre, it has carved out a reputation for being one of the most authentic Italians in the city.
The guys pride themselves on sourcing good quality ingredients direct from Italy such as their delicious Balsamic vinegar and olive oils, in addition to a well curated Italian wine list. Although many are small producers there are some outstanding wines listed such as one of our favourites Sassicaia if you are on a blow-out.
Our budget didn’t stretch quite that far so we settled for a bottle of Montefalco Sagrantino 2011 (€59.90), a big, robust red that Barolo drinkers will definitely appreciate but at a fraction of the price. Be warned, choosing can be difficult as the list is fairly extensive but staff are well briefed to share their favourites that will bring out the best in each plate.
Like many Italians, Il Vicoletto is not exactly what you would call spacious, but it has an infectious buzz as soon as we walk in the door, the room feels convivial, and although tables are close enough together the chatter in the room drowns out any gripes.
The menu is very much what you would expect if you had landed in a trattoria in Romagna, butter based rich creamy sauces, fresh hand made pasta, veal, preserved meats and some interesting dishes thrown in such as their signature Risotto al Barbera D’asti – Carnaroli rice in Superior Barbera D’asti wine and sage.
Slices of crusty ciabatta arrive and are refilled without us even noticing as we mop up some of the best balsamic vinegar and olive oil we have sampled in some time. There is quite a renaissance of Italian cuisine in Dublin at present with openings such as La Cucina at Farrier and Draper, Luna and Nolita. However there is something about the charming, intimate and authentic offering here at Il Vicoletto that is hard to beat.
When you think Italian cuisine Burrata (€13.50), for us, is a must have. Il Vicoletto’s version is quite classical, creamy mozzarella that will please any dairy lover served with wine cherry tomatoes, Iberico ham and fresh basil, sometimes less is more and you just need to let the quality of the produce do the talking.
Across the table a plate of Gamberi Piccanti (€8.50) (spicy prawns to you and me) lathered in white wine, garlic and chilli, were served with some garlic ciabatta to soak up every last drop of deliciousness.
Mains are separated into Primi Pasta and Fish & Meats, the special of Lamb Belly (€19.90) was surprisingly light for such a rich flavoured dish. Slow cooked for six hours and served as two dainty ballotines with truffle cream, artichoke and carrot making it a beautiful pairing for the Sagrantino.
Any good Italian worth its salt should be able to pull off an impressive Seafood Linguine. Our Linguine alle Vongole Veraci Classiche (€15.50), comprised of handmade linguine dished up with some of the best clams you will find – Paluordes clams, with a generous helping of garlic, cherry tomato and white wine sauce. This was hands down one of the best Seafood Linguine dishes we have sampled.
They say there is nothing more romantic than Italian food, however given the amount of garlic we ingested that may be debatable. In our weak effort to disguise the garlic we finished on a sweeter note with some Pears (€6.50) poached in a Chianti Riserva wine with a sprinkling of cinnamon and dollop of vanilla ice cream.
Il Vicoletto is a rarity in Temple Bar, apart from one or two exceptions, not only are the guys here offering up something truly authentic with charming service but they also offer good value for money, well worth a little detour down Crow Street.
Dinner for two with wine and a bottle of sparkling water came to €128.70.
5 Crow St
T: +353 (01) 670 8633
REVIEW BY JULES MAHON