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La Picolla Italia, Italian Restaurant, Carlow


144 Tullow Street, Carlow, Co Carlow.

+353 (0)59 914 0366

Price: € 0-60 (for two with wine)

Hours: Lunch and dinner Tues-Sat, open Sunday from 1-9pm.


Good Italian restaurants are like hens teeth in Ireland and La Piccola Italia had all the indications of being one of them. After an unfortunate rocky period, there is new management and Nicola Orefice (ex of Via Veneto) is in situ, and everything is good with this restaurant again. Good ingredients and careful and faithful preparation. The signs are good - you won’t find cream in the carbonara or garlic butter, but authentic food and a good wine list should keep you happy.

La Piccola Italia is located in the heart of Carlow town in the pedestrian area of Tullow St opposite Shaw’s retail outlet. Inside it’s a modern room with reclaimed wooden floors and stone plain cream walls, giving it an airy feel. The restaurant is a 55 seater serving authentic Italian food with an experienced Italian chef and the redoubtable Nicola running things front of house.

The menu is extensive and runs to several pages and is laid out in the Italian way, starting with Antipasti, followed by Primo and Secondi (first and second) courses. Starters include sautéed squid with garlic and chilli, mussels in white wine sauce, prawn salad, Carpaccio of beef with rocket and parmesan shavings and strips of monkfish in a Provencal sauce.
The pastas include wonderful dishes such as spaghetti with strips of sea bass with fennel and lemon zest, penne pasta with mussels, prawns and mushrooms and fettuccine with lamb ragu and artichoke.

The meat and fish dishes continue from here and include favourites such a slow roast lamb, saltimbocca, a choice of steaks and fresh fish dishes that change depending on what is available.

Over a recent Sunday lunch we had the sautéed prawns with garlic and white wine sauce and a starter portion of the linguine alla Scoglio, which is mixed seafood in tomato sauce. The prawns were delicately cooked and the sauce had great flavours, while the pasta was perfectly al dente and the seafood tasty and plentiful. Main courses were next up, but first there was a small diversion of a tasting plate of that day’s fish dish from the chef, sea bass in aromatic herbs. This was a really simply dish with the fish left untreated, just pan fried with a squeeze of lemon and served on crisp greens with a hint of garlic.
Our real main courses were Saltimbocca alla Romanza - veal escalope topped with Parma ham and sage in a marsala wine sauce, which was served with rosemary roast potatoes. The better, prettier half had chosen the ventaglio di anatra affumicata - smoked duck on a bed of rocket. Both of these dishes were excellent, the smoked duck salad being particularly good.

This is an excellent restaurant already, and they are striving to get better, which is a great sign. If you live locally you have to try it, or if you’re in Dublin or elsewhere, it’s probably worth a one hour trip for great food at excellent prices.

*Because we were driving we didn’t get to try their wines, but the list is well chosen and runs from under twenty euros up to serious offerings like a Sassicaia 2002 for €159.00. The wine list is exclusively supplied by A Taste of Italy. (Winners of the newcomer of the year award in the Irish wine guide 2008).
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