DUNNE & CRESCENZI

16 South Frederick Street
Dublin 2
Phone: 01 675 9892
*
Seafort Avenue
Sandymount
Dublin 4
Phone: 01 667 3252
*
Blackrock Shopping Centre
Co. Dublin

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Restaurants at the heart of a genuinely impressive mini-gastroempire in Dublin, the very antithesis of “red sauce joints” and pioneers in bringing real Italian food to the people of the Irish capital. Plus a stunning wine selection at keen prices.

How do I love Dunne and Crescenzi? Let me count the ways...

First of all, and very important for context, is the fact that D&C brought real Italian food – food as eaten by Italians as distinct from some vague Irish notion of it – to the people of Dublin. And they brought it at affordable prices and at a time when opening a restaurant anywhere in the country was not perceived as being on the mad side of foolhardy.

And so, there’s a a sense of conviction about Dunne & Crescenzi that you just don’t get in most places for eating. It really does feel like that these two restaurants want to spread a bit of very distinctively Italian happiness.

They buzz, they deliver proper Italian food, that doesn't cost a whole lot and they are refreshingly down to earth. This is doubtless because the small empire of which D&C are part (and which now involves more than a dozen restaurants and cafés) was founded and is run by Eileen Dunne, a Dubliner who was born and reared in the Pearse Street area and who returned from her art studies in Rome with her Italian husband, Stefano Cresenzi to run a newsagent in Sutton. In the meantime, they have given Dublin some of the best value, and most authentic Italian food and wine that the capital has ever seen. With no pretension of bullshit.

And she even has a Dunne and Crescenzi Cookbook, a fine volume published by Cork's Mercier Press and worth seeking out as a guide to how to cook Italian without tears but with a lot of passion.

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My typical meal here kicks off with maybe a simple tomato and basil bruschetta: chopped tomatoes (ripe and juicy, which is a great rarity at the best of times, but amazingly consistent through the year; we are talking scrupulous sourcing) with spicy basil and excellent peppery olive oil on top of grilled rustic bread slices. If you judge, as I do, a restaurant on the simplest of dishes, this tells you all you want to know about D&C. It’s perfect.
 

Then perhaps some nicely mature salami fortified with fennel seeds: gloriously fragrant and served with more grilled bread, olive oil and baby rocket. I could spend the whole of lunchtime eating just this.

But what about pasta? Perhaps a decadent dish of silky ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms and scented with truffle, all bathed in an intensely flavoured combination of cream, butter and Parmesan. Pure decadence. This is one of regulars.

Or maybe spaghetti with mussels, clams and prawns in a light tomato sauce, demonstrating how well shellfish goes with al dente pasta and the crisp, fruity acidity of tomatoes.

I have a particular devotion to Dunne & Crescenzi’s tiramisu because of its deliberate lack of sweetness, its utterly correct eschewal of alcohol, its intensely concentrated, almost savoury coffee dimension. I have never had a better version, even in Italy.

As if this were not enough, Dunne & Crescenzi has by far the best Italian wine selction in the country and at highly favourable prices, rarities (at least for Ireland) like Roero Arneis (or even red Roero!), Morellino di Scansano and Pecorino. And the finest Italian deli in the country at the South Frederick Street outlet.