Italian food is one of those things that pleases all, which can delight immensely, yet rarely delights in its common Irish form. An Italian restaurant is usually the safe, crowd-pleaser option, where even people who like "shteak and veg" will be satisfied. We have a huge amount of Italian restaurants in Dublin and in Ireland, but only a handful standout as offering something a bit more special. Especially when it comes to restaurants in the depths of Temple Bar, the most tourist-friendly spot in the country.
Temple Bar isn't the immediate location that springs to mind when you're looking for good food. However, locals know that some gems do lurk in amidst all the cobblestones and diddle-eye music. When you think of Italian food in Temple Bar, you would not be blamed for thinking of takeaway pizza slices. But bright lights can shine in the dimmest of corners, and Rosa Made on Crow Street is one such spot.
|Half a dozen Irish oysters|
From the minute that I ring to make a reservation, I know that we are in the hands of real Italians. Everything is exuberant and passionate, and Luca De Marzio exemplifies it all. The interior is pure Italian decor, and the menu is packed with lots of classic, and some more unusual dishes. In addition, there's a wide selection of daily specials, which are predominately seafood of one form or another. A small fridge cabinet holds the daily catches, which can be cooked many ways (including the fantastic salt-baked technique) and which are then filleted table side by the skilled waiters.
Over the course of two visits, we dined on a selection of starters, including fresh salty Irish oysters, prawn and squid with spinach and cherry tomatoes, wonderful gratinated scallops served in their shell and a plate of creamy burrata with Italian ham. Nothing here is spectacularly avant garde but it's all delicious and assembled with the very best of ingredients in that way that is so peculiar to Italians.
|Pan-fried squid and king prawn|
|Daily special of scallops|
A main pasta dish of simple ricotta and truffle ravioli is elevated with the addition of a classic sage butter. It's simply divine. For me, I've chosen the butternut squash risotto on both visits, and neither time has disappointed. This is perfectly cooked risotto (a lot of restaurants could learn from this), slightly sweetened by the butternut squash and served with a portion of creamy burrata sitting in the middle. Swirling the burrata through the risotto and enjoying the unctuousness of it all is surely one of life's little moments.
|Ricotta and black truffle ravioli|
|Butternut squash risotto with burrata|
|Spaghetti alle vongole veraci|
To round off, we order a portion of everyone's favourite dessert, tiramisu. One of the peculiarities of Italian restaurants is that every single one will have its own tiramisu recipe (probably inherited from the chef's nonna) and I'm glad to say that the version at Rosa Madre will not disappoint. A bottle of mineral Cantina del Taburno Falanghina from the volcanic soils of Southern Italy went down well, as did the subsequent glasses of limoncello and aged grappa. In fact, Rosa Madre has a wide selection of grappas, if you're in the mood for something different.
Everyone's favourite dessert - tiramisu
Rosa Madre is thoroughly Italian, all the way through to it's burrata-loving core. From front of house to servers to chefs, it's real and authentic and very good indeed. So, if you want to pick somewhere a little special and better for your Christmas party, give Rosa Madre a whirl.
Rosa Madre, 7 Crow Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 551 1206