Donatello’s Italian Restaurant is an institution in Maynooth. It’s just off the Main Street, situated down a mews that was once the stable blocks for one of the grand houses back in the day. You’ll find the entrance across the road from the AIB bank; the restaurant is just about twenty yards down the lane. It’s in a nice courtyard space, surrounded by granite walls.
There is a large canopied area with tables and lanterns outside, perfect for a summers evening, or during the winter it’s where all the smokers of the restaurant converge. Inside it’s a traditional trattoria with a homely feel, a big open plan kitchen where you can see the action taking place, and simple tables with chairs in a variety of colours.
Starters feature all kinds of Italian homemade breads, made from a family recipe dating back five generations. Garlic bread, dough balls and foccacia are priced between €4.50 and €9.90. Appetizers include antipasto, pan steamed Irish mussels and prosciutto di Parma and are priced from €6.00 to €12.90.
The main courses are divided between salads, pasta, fish, meat and pizza, and prices go anywhere from €10.50 to €29.90. Expect to see all the proper Italian favourites here; an authentic sounding carbonara, a pan fried chicken with gorgonzola and pan seared pork with pancetta and mushrooms caught my eye, but personally I can’t see the point of not eating like an Italian when in a good Italian restaurant, so it was a starter portion of the Linguine con Cozze, (mussels) followed by the Saltimbocca.
The wine list is mainly Italian and has a concise but good selection served by the glass, carafe and bottle. Bottles range in price between €19-27.95. Reds include Nero D’Avola, Chianti Wicker or Primitivo Di Orvie Manduria and whites list Orvieto or Terre Avare Rosato.
Good homemade bread appeared, and a bottle of sparkling water on a week night kept me busy while I watched the chefs at work, looking reassuringly like they knew what they were doing. The busy kitchen looked relaxed, and I could see them tasting and checking seasonings and taste as they went along. Sometimes I’m fairly sure this simple thing doesn’t happen when you get an under or over seasoned dish.
The linguine came out quickly and the pasta was perfectly al dente, with a huge pile of mussels mixed through. A simple dish, it relies on the flavour of the ingredients and not a lot else, and this was just olive oil, garlic, the mussels and seasoning and it was fresh and delicious. The saltimbocca - jumps off the tongue in Italian - normally comes with vegetables, but I asked for a simple rocket and tomato salad, and I got a plate of two slices of thin pork, fried and topped with Parma ham, with a Marsala wine sauce. This is a rich dish and it worked extremely well with the simple rocket. Two very well executed dishes, both authentic and packed with flavour.
It’s not difficult to see why Donatello’s has stood the test of time. Good food, consistency and service keep the locals coming back for more. It’s very much a family affair, with daughter Elizabeth running the floor this evening, while Dad Antonio was in the kitchen. Hnads on owners, generally make for a good experience, and this was no exception.
Go along, chill out, enjoy great food with some lovely people, and if it’s the summer, take a second bottle out onto the terrace and discuss the merits of a visit to either Rome or Venice, while enjoyed a flavour of Italy in Maynooth.