Bellucci’s is a large purpose built restaurant in Ballsbridge just across from the RDS. It’s part of a large development dating back to the early nineties and has gone through various incarnations since. There has been a posh bistro and a gourmet burger bar on the site, but no one has really cracked the large space, in spite of a great location.
Well, roll up Robbie Fox, who has changed the interior dramatically, and managed to create a warm and welcoming space, where in the past it’s always been cold and clinical. Outside there is a large terrace, sheltered from the road and the elements with a glass wall, while a new super-size canopy covers the area. Inside, the restaurant is dominated to the front with a central bar area, where a large pizza oven resides.
Stools ring the bar, and are handy for a quick bite and a glass of wine, while booths run down the back wall and a large and plush. The previously concrete ceiling is now black, and seems to lower it by feet, while feature lampshades and subtle lighting complete a transformative look.
On the menu is a selection of Italian dishes covering most of the bases. To start there’s nice Antipasti to share, calamari cooked a couple of ways, a beef Carpaccio, and you can order like an Italian and have any of the pastas or risottos as a starter portion. Main courses include the aforementioned pastas, both fresh and dried, including a very good seafood linguine, homemade wild mushroom ravioli, a pappadelle with a venison ragu and a spaghetti Bolognese.
Then it’s on to meat and fish, so choose from steaks, rack of lamb, sea bream, salmon and a couple of daily specials. The pizzas are thin crust with very generous toppings, and there’s a choice of about a dozen, so you’re bound to find one you like.
A mid-week evening sees it fairly full and three of us tried a good cross section of the menu. The salt and pepper calamari was tender and sweet, nicely seasoned and drizzled with olive oil and lemon, while a starter portion of the Linguine Frutti de Mare was very tasty indeed; perfectly cooked pasta was covered in a rick Marinara sauce, and packed with clams, mussels and prawns.
Main courses continued to impress, and the wild mushroom ravioli was excellent, with a depth of flavour that is often simply missing. A Bellucci pizza – Parma ham, rocket, cherry tomato and parmesan shavings – was enough to feed a family of four, but was fresh, generously topped and had a great this crispy base. The star here though was the fish dish of perfectly cooked grilled Halibut on parmesan shortbread with capers, olives and tomatoes with a side dish of crispy rosemary roasted potatoes, which was delicious.
We managed a shared panna cotta which was a fine end to a good meal. Bellucci aren’t trying to make this a fine dining experience, it’s casual, they have a cocktail list to frighten your liver, and the prices are reasonable. The food is very good, and in fairness to Mr. Fox, he has managed what all that went before him didn’t do, and created a great atmosphere in a space where previously it was like having dinner in an aircraft hanger. Ballsbridge has a new, cool restaurant, and no doubt it will do well.