I miss Italy. Before you know what, I used to go there at least twice a year to visit the vineyards and it has now been over two years since my last trip.
I am the happiest in wine country – anywhere – but there is something about the joy and enthusiasm Italians bring to wine, food, design and life in general that I am concerned about. makes you want to live there.
Restaurant Rosa Madre might be the next best thing – the creation of Luca de Marzio who acts as a sommelier and as the restaurant’s bubbling and always enthusiastic host. Luca is as Italian as you can imagine and I love him for that, even his outrageous studded sneakers (maybe Gucci!).
Seafood is a specialty here, so we start with that. A fat and juicy Rockall squid (€ 22) had been hatched and dismembered artfully and quickly cooked with baby carrots and mashed butternut squash for added sweetness. Tender, squeaky and succulent, it’s no wonder our squid fishermen are arguing with the English for possession of Rockall. My own entree of gratin Wexford scallops had been topped with Parmesan and breadcrumbs and simply toasted with the sheer, translucent flesh.
Rosa Madre makes her own fresh pasta which is now widely available in gourmet stores and has helped the restaurant through the blockages while starting a new business – buy it if you see it. Half a serving of Irish Clam Linguine (€ 18) was creamy and sweet with the brackish clams adding a pleasant counterpoint to the silky al-dente pasta while a half serving of Pappardelle with porcini mushrooms (€ 15) was even better, rich and tasty and a perfect fall dish.
A whole turbot (€ 70 for 2) had been simply baked in the oven with sliced potatoes, garlic, rosemary, olives and tomatoes, then skillfully cut up and spread out at the table. The firm, immaculate flesh of the turbot and crispy roasted potatoes were offset by a classic tangy white butter and the tomatoes and olives added a welcome savory Mediterranean zest. A perfect match with our white ‘Bianco Pomice’ from Sicily.
‘Bianco Pomice’, as the name suggests, is a reference to Sicilian volcanic soil that stood out particularly for its flint freshness. Scents of lemon verbena and wild herbs with citrus notes and a stony mineral touch on the finish – another gem imported by Taste of Italy in Wexford.
Rosa Madre’s wine list is still good but since my last visit has been supercharged with a new temperature controlled cellar where you can find bottles from Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tâche tucked away alongside bottles of Sassicaia and Ornellaia and many , lots of Champagne. If you’ve ever wanted to slash the top of a champagne bottle, this is Rosa Madre’s specialty – we witnessed it twice during our meal.
For our two desserts (€ 19) we went North and South, starting with a large Sicilian Cannolo (singular) filled with sweet ricotta and pistachio in a crispy shell. We especially liked that the filling wasn’t too sweet or pulped, so the texture and flavor of the ricotta cheese was a nice contrast to the crispy shell.
Then there was a joyful thing – “Ferrero Rocher Dome” created by the extraordinary pastry chef, Karen Smith, who works with a few of Dublin’s restaurants (Created by Karen is her brand). It was actually a fist-sized tribute to each ambassador’s favorite chocolate with a hazelnut mousse in the center and a whole hazelnut, surrounded by hazelnut and milk chocolate crémeux and a few flakes of feuilletine for the texture. It was a triumph.
It was not just our dessert, it was a joyful meal overall from the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients to the assured cooking and charming staff. We didn’t need this Whole Roast Turbot in addition to
our pasta and seafood, but it was the right decision – an Italian restaurant probably would have ordered champagne too, maybe next time.
The dinner for two including two shellfish starters, two pasta dishes, a whole Turbot to share, two desserts and a bottle of Sicilian white wine costs a very fair € 221.
- Food: 9/10
- Wine: 9.5 / 10
- Service: 9/10
- Atmosphere: 9/10
- Value: 8.5 / 10
A true old-fashioned Italian restaurant with a dignified emphasis on fresh fish and fresh pasta, and one of Dublin’s best wine lists.