Il Vicoletto Italian restaurant can be found halfway down Crowe Street in Dublin’s Temple Bar. This unassuming 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 the kitchens own creations, based on seasonality and the best of ingredients.
Our late colleague Paolo Tullio always rated this as one of the best Italian kitchens in Ireland and here’s a piece he wrote ten years ago;
“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 chefs 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.”
Fast forward to today and standards have remained as high, and on the wine side improved since Christian has collected and curated perhaps the best collection of Italian wines available in Ireland today. Sourced from small producers by meticulous exploration, there are wines here to delight.
Gloomy January is the perfect month to search for delight, and the truffle hunters of Northern Italy are the ones to provide it. This is how I ended up with a duo of hand made ravioli, one stuffed with Italian sausage, ricotta cheese, mozzarella in a brandy butter sauce, the other coloured red like a tomato and stuffed with buffalo ricotta and basil, with garlic and a parmesan cream sauce.
To these perfect little taste pockets was added freshly grated black and white truffle; flown in from Italian, but the results of an order placed three years ago. It’s worth reflecting on this for a moment; on the commitment required to source this ingredient for your restaurants and customers and then to wait so long. That’s dedication.
These white truffles sell for 5k per kilo, the black for less - only 2k per kilo, almost a bargain. The depth of flavour from the white particularly is astonishing and the aroma is stunning. This is sublime cooking, coupled with the most exquisite ingredients.
My main course brought me the scaloppine alla romano, thin slices of veal with sage and prosciutto in a white wine sauce served with roast potatoes. An Italian classic, perfectly cooked and flavoured, this dish is a favourite the world over, and like all classics it is delicious when done properly.
I debated between the Tiramisu, which is excellent here, or the lighter chocolate fondant baked to order. It was the right choice, rich dark and gooey inside, and with a perfectly baked case.
I finished with good coffee and watched the room fill up to bursting with people obviously in on the secret of great Italian food in Dublin. I always recommend Il Vicoletto if someone asks for a really good Italian restaurant, and wonder that they are not more famous. In fairness they don’t need to be, it’s packed out every evening with those who search out the best places to eat.
If you are one of those unfortunates who haven’t been, rectify that omission immediately.