If bars and restaurants in George’s Street were people, they’d make up for quite a fun crowd. You’ll have the chill ones, the wild ones and an eclectic group of friends from different parts of the world. NoLIta would be an attractive Italian-American stylishly attired, with a passion for food and drink, and great charisma.
My visit to NoLIta was long overdue. Since it opened last spring, I’ve had it on my bucket list and on a rainy Tuesday evening last December, I was able to finally experience it.
The venue, named after the area known as North of Little Italy in the Big Apple, focuses on modern Italian flavours and NYC style pizzas, and on the drinks front, it excels at signature cocktails although it also has a good selection of wines, including four options on tap.
After arriving to my table in the main bar, I toured NoLIta to have a glimpse of its other areas before ordering. Pass the front floor and you’ll go from a sleek cocktail bar to an inviting restaurant, were you’ll be able to enjoy a more food-oriented experience with the majority of dishes coming from its wood oven, the eye-catching piece of equipment that is NoLIta’s heart.
Upstairs, an enchanting garden area and a more intimate bar that just seemed like the perfect setting for a glamorous celebration, were just more reasons to come back with a crowd.
Back to my polished wood table, the comfy leather sofa surrounding it, and the cocktail menu. Between funky illustrations channeling the aesthetic of the iconic Coney Island of days long gone, there was a selection of signature cocktails, most of which were gin-based (as well as some whiskey, rum and vodka tipples).
I have to say I loved the disclaimer in the bottom: “We take all reasonable requests when it comes to creating your drinks. We don’t judge. It’s your choice. If you don’t see it, please ask. We’re here to oblige.” Certainly a reassuring line for those cocktail lovers with guilty pleasures that’d make less open minded mixologists raise an eyebrow.
Not ready to push the boundaries of bartending yet, I decided to try their Top Shelf Beauty, a Tanqueray Gin, Chambord, rose syrup, lime juice, egg whites and soda creation worthy of its name. Floral and delicate, it was a taste of spring in the middle of winter.
My guest, who favours whiskey, had a Brazen Benedict, which combines the golden spirit with Benedictine, cherry syrup, mint and lime juice. It was reminiscent of a mint julep, with the juicy and fruity touch of the cherries. I’ve to say I was surprised to see the great value of the spirits selection, Dingle Gin for example, at €6 a serve, Havana 7 Years at €7 and Bulleit Bourbon at €6.
Wine-wise, the sparkling options were suitable to all tastes and budgets, from Prosecco to Cristal. As a pleasant surprise, I noticed they have Lambrusco by the glass, a wine that I strongly believe deserves more love. The wine list was, as you can imagine, predominantly Italian, with your Argentinian Malbec, Rich Riojas and a few French amis present as well.
Craft beer lovers were not forgotten, as there’s a concise selection that includes the likes of Five Lamps and Rascals, along with the bigger brands.
The initial plan of sharing a pizza and a quick drink evolved into an evening of small plates, conversation and a second round. How could you not want to linger longer when it’s just so inviting… Chilling and people-watching in the ultra-comfy sofa or going out to the cold winter? No debate.
I’ve had pizza in New York, and the memories of thin-crusted, hand-tossed, cheesy slices were honoured by this meaty Dubliner rendition (we had the Coppa, with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, rocket, Parmesan cheese and rocket).
The small plates were ideal for sharing and they had a distinctive Mediterranean feel to them, both in style and substance. A selection of Irish and Italian salumi (cold cuts), bread with cheese and dips, calamari with garlic and lemon mayonnaise, meatballs and wings alla NoLIta was slowly disappearing from our table.
More and more people kept arriving and the guests were clearly moving from after office catch ups to pre-party and group celebrations. As NoLIta opens late, it is not unusual for guests to spend a long night there, moving from the restaurant to the bar or vice-versa instead of changing venues.
Thirsty again, a Muddled Fellow was a delightful sight. Tanqueray gin, eldelflower liqueur, basil, raspberry and lime juice with soda combined in a glossy globe glass as fashionable as a new-wave Gin & Tonic without the bitter kick.
In tune with the chic NYC vibes, my guest’s request for a Manhattan made perfect sense. After all, they did say reasonable off-the-menu wishes were catered for! Balanced, strong and served on beautiful glassware, it was one of the best Manhattans I’ve tried in Dublin.
My evening at NoLIta began early so by the time I was saying arrivederci many were just saying ciao. I’ve really enjoyed the relaxed elegance and personal service that we were able to enjoy before party mode was on, but now that I’ve seen NoLIta’s more sophisticated, laid-back side, I can’t wait to return after midnight as for me, the promise of DJs and dancing until late is as inviting as that of a night of cocktails and conversation.
The bill at NoLIta arrived for €88 and it included four cocktails, a pizza and five sharing starters.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.