A SQUALLY windy rain blew us through the doors to the warm embrace of Jamie’s Italian where a slow night unfolded in Dundrum with all the ease of an Italian siesta.
It seems we Irish are taking to the sharing plate. Over the next two hours a collection of near strangers tucked into a feast of taste sensations, passing morsels of food to each other with all the informality of a teenage picnic, postscripts of “have you tried this” or “you must try this” accompanying each delivery.
Jamie Oliver’s partner in good food at affordable prices, Gennaro Contaldo, joined us fresh from the kitchen where he had prepared our anti-pasta planks.
And on which the Lascio Boconccini mozzarella with chilli and mint, pecorino and amazing chilli jam was wonderful, the pickled green chillies and plump green olives adding extra bite and crunch (€8.95).
The food being prepared on a dreary Dublin Monday evening seemed drenched in Italian sunshine as Contaldo conjured up big family dinners in the shade of olive trees in far off places.
But back to the sunshine of the culinary micro-climate that was Jamie’s Italian. Heat and light in every dish, flavours meeting, considering and striking up wonderful, if sometimes unusual, friendships – such as the pumpkin panzerotti (€15.95), half moons of homemade pasta filled with roast pumpkin, ricotta and parmesan served with chilli, rosemary butter and crushed amaretti.
On the other hand, the truffle risotto (€15.95) made with the Michelan star aquerello rice, minced black winter truffle, butter and parmesan was just sublime.
But how about shoulder of lamb pizza?
Pizza? At Jamie’s Italian? Yes, we’re happy to say that in response to the “you’re an Italian restaurant so you must do pizza” Jamie has been pleased to oblige with the emphasis as always on the simple, the different and the sharing.
So move over mushroom and make way for funghi misti, a collaboration of wild field mushrooms, parmesan, smoked mozzarella (again from di Lascio and smoked over hay) and thyme; or keeping with those warm vibes for the season there’s Italian hot with the emphasis on hot with the margherita topped with fennel salami, napoli forte salami fresh chillies and oregano, an award-winning aged Westcombe Chedder cheese.
And of course, the special – flaked lamb shoulder with bechamel, mozzarella, pea and mint riccotta ripple and pea shoots (from €13.95 depending on topping).
Gerry Fitzpartick, Jamie’s partner in Ireland, sources as many ingredients as possible in Ireland; his head chef Nicola Lentini learned how to make pasta from his Italian grandmother and told us it’s all quite simple – just add a little love in the cooking.