They say the Irish and the Italians are quite similar, and it’s easy to see why; we’re very family orientated, we enjoy a good drink and we really enjoy good food. For months I had been hearing about an intimate Northside restaurant that is serving top-notch Italian fare. Grano has been on my list for a while and I recently managed to get a free evening to visit this Stoneybatter food mecca.
I booked a reservation for two on OpenTable for a cold Saturday evening…. Or at least I thought I did. I accidentally booked for Sunday and showed up a day early! Cut to me being completely mortified as I stood in the doorway of the restaurant realising my mistake. Owner Roberto couldn’t have been more lovely and thankfully found a table for me. You couldn’t find a more welcoming and friendly host.
We settled in and decided a little vino was needed to ease my earlier embarrassment. The wine is strictly Italian of course, with wines separated into regions of the North, South and Centre of Italy. While we dined a la carte, Grano offers an incredible value early bird menu (except on Friday’s and Saturday’s) that is worth checking out. We settle on a bottle of red for the evening, a delicious Chiamami Quando Piove (€37.00) from the Montepulciano Abruzzo region.
While we perused the menu we ordered Black Pig Lardo & Sourdough Bread (€5.50). Two thick slices of warm sourdough bread were layered with thin slices of lardo that were almost translucent. The crunch of the bread mixed with melt in the mouth lardo was a sinfully deliciously bite and made even better as we sipped our Chiamami.
Our first starter of the evening was the Frisella Di Farro (€5.50). This dish is made with spelt rusk bread, cherry tomatoes, oregano, garlic biologic and extra virgin olive oil. Roberto tells us the region where this bread hails from is quite a poor region, where the locals are savvy with their cooking.
Instead of baking bread that will go stale within a few days, this rusk bread is much denser and can last for up to a week or more, meaning there are no wasted loaves (it tastes great too).
You may read this and think, tomatoes on bread, that’s a basic bruschetta right? Well dear reader, how wrong you are. Upon first bite, we are met with deliciously sweet tomatoes, flavoured with flecks of oregano. And then the bread; it had a wonderful crunch and was full of flavour. You need to try this dish to truly realise how amazing something so simple can taste.
Our second starter of the evening was Culatta e Burrata Crostini. Now, I’ll admit I love burrata. I mean, I really really love buratta and Grano’s dish didn’t disappoint. This aged pork was thinly sliced and sat underneath a ball of buratta.
The culatta had a lovely sweet taste with gentle hums of nutty flavour. The sweetness of the meat was a match made in heaven with the oozing buratta. A simple dish but when the ingredients are this spectacular, it’s best to let them shine.
For main courses, we choose the Tortelloni Al Ragu Di Cinghiale (€16.50) and Gnocchi Di Zucca (€17.00). The former was a dish of perfectly made pasta, filled with wild boar ragu served with parmigiano, organic tomato sauce and olive oil.
The flavours on the plate were second to none. The sweetness of the tomatoes balanced with the salty parmigiano cheese was heaven on its own. Paired with the soft and flavourful wild boar this became an instant hit. A comforting and hearty dish that we devoured in between sips of red wine.
The latter was a pretty plate of pumpkin gnocchi with parmesan and black truffle. Again I was surprised how something so simple could taste so spectacular. The gnocchi was some of the best I’ve ever had. Light, fluffy and full of pumpkin, it’s subtle sweetness contrasted the earthiness of the black truffle.
I’m sure most of us will have fallen victim to dishes so laden with truffle that the flavour is beyond overpowering (especially in the case of truffle oils). But here the balance is perfect and this is my favourite dish of the night.
I’ll be honest and say we probably could have done without dessert. However, my eyes are very definitely bigger than my belly. Unfortunately the tiramisu was sold out, a pity as I’ve heard so many good things about it. We choose the Deconstructed Cannolo Siciliano (€6.50) and the Salame al Cioccolato instead (€6.50).
The cannolo was a more than generous portion, sprinkled with crunchy pistachio and not too sweet, making it a lovely end to our meal. The salame al cioccolate was a firm favourite with my dining companion but a little too rich for me. I think the pannacotta would have been a better choice and one I shall be indulging in on my next visit (and there most certainly will be another visit).
All in all, our evening in Grano was more than enjoyable. The warm hospitality and Roberto’s infectious smile is enough reason to dine in Grano, but the food itself is really something to sing about.
This is the Italian food that Dublin has been crying out for. Traditional, authentic and made with love. You don’t need to hop on a plane to find stellar Italian, simply head on down to Stoneybatter, and come hungry!
5 Norseman Court
T: +353 1 538 2003
REVIEW BY SINÉAD SMYTH