Il Vicoletto Italian restaurant has gone through a few changes over the years; but its heart has always been Italian. Now it’s found its true calling under the all Italian team of Christian and Manuel. Christian loves Italian wines, and loves to leave his customers wanting more, and Manuel is one of the best of the new breed of young Italian chefs.
Il Vicoletto is small and can be found halfway down Crowe Street in Dublin’s Temple Bar. This small but very atmospheric restaurant has always been a proponent of ‘proper’ Italian food and the menu is a testament to this. You won’t find any ersatz Italian fusion rubbish, what you will find is a carefully crafted list of some of the great Italian classics, as well as some of Manuel’s own inventions.
After a dozen or so Antipasti, including a very good Carpaccio, a Parmigiana of aubergines and a Piedmont speciality of Vitello tonnato, which is milk fed veal with tuna and capers, it’s into a list of pastas that just all sound so good. Main courses continue in the authentic way, and rather than list a lot of Italian dishes, I’d just like to use a quote from Paolo, the last time he ate Manuel’s cooking;
“Occasionally, over the years, I've come across Italian restaurants that are authentic. These are restaurants where the ingredients are correct and where recipes are genuine and unadulterated….our starters were very much at the top end of Italian cuisine. The first dish was the rotolo, which you can think of as a Swiss roll made of pasta. This rotolo is Manuel’s great-grandmother's recipe, and rolled into the thin sheets of pasta are ricotta, sausage meat, mozzarella, spinach and herbs. It's then sliced, and the slice is served with a creamy tomato sauce finished with brandy. It was, without a doubt, probably the best pasta dish I've ever eaten.”
With this in mind I decided to eat like and Italian and have a starter of pasta, and for the main course, I went along with Christian’s recommendation and had the Tagliata di Manza; sliced fillet steak with grana padana cheese and rocket.
In the end I ended up with two small pasta dishes, Manuel daily ravioli, which on this day was stuffed with soft Italian cheese and was served with pistachio nuts and cream sauce. It was as light as could be, and delicious. My second was the homemade pappadelle, which Manuel makes with the addition of red wine for colour. It was accompanied by his signature sauce of ragu di salcissia; homemade sausage ragu with Italian herbs. Again this was fabulous and I can only echo Paolo and describe both as among the best I’ve tasted.
The Tagliata di Manza was a feast of simplicity after these two triumphs, it’s simply very good locally sourced fillet steak grilled and sliced and served with the cheese on a bed of rocket. This is a dish that depends on the ingredients and not much more, and it’s simplicity was wonderful.
After this fine meal I struggled through a panna cotta, and finished with a good coffee. Il Vicoletto is one of Ireland’s best Italian restaurants, and when it comes to pasta in particular, Manuel is somewhat of a genius. Christian has been slowly collecting wines, or more to the point wine suppliers, and has now got almost 100 fine wines from small Italian producers. If you haven’t visited them, get there before they become too famous; it is small and you may not get a table!