ENOTECA LANGHE: IN WHICH MICK WALLACE GIVES US A CRACKING WINE SELECTION WITH SIMPLE FOOD TO MATCH
Wallace’s Enoteca delle Langhe
Phone: 01 888 0834
Irish Daily Mail
19 May 2018
Say what you will about Mick Wallace – and he’s a public figure who is much discussed – but he has made life in Dublin better, at least in one respect. He directly imports a hundred or so Italian wines and sells them, at very reasonable prices, in his restaurants.
Italy is very much about wine, from the cool hills of Trentino in the north, right down to the baking vineyards of Puglia in the south. The grape is to Italy what GAA clubs are to Ireland. There’s hardly a parish in the country that doesn’t make wine. Travelling through Italy, you are rarely able to spit, if so inclined, without hitting a vine.
As a result, Italy is probably the world’s most diverse producer of wine and, while we tend to think mainly in terms of Chianti and Valpolicella, these form just the tip of a vast oenological iceberg.
Anyway, I suppose it was the promise of the wine that sent me to Wallace’s Enoteca Langhe, not to be confused with the very adjacent Wallace’s Taverna (where, the eagle-eyed will notice, there’s a lot of pizza going down; the Langhe is a pizza-free zone).
Had I not been with my very chatty companion I would have pored over the substantial wine list for ages. Indeed, I probably would have disturbed other diners by studying the bottles on display but, in the end, I confined myself to a quick glance that was (a) fruitful and (b) quite unworthy of the effort that has gone into the selection.
Perhaps the best way to explore the wines is to order one of the taglieri, plates of meat, cheese, vegetables and what have you. I know, from experience, that they provide an excellent backdrop to the wine selection.
However, we were in the market for a meal and kicked off with two simple starters.
Burrata, the intensely creamy version of mozzarella, was one of the best I’ve tasted in Ireland. In Italy, they say you need to be eating it within an hour or so of where the stuff is made in order to get the full effect but this, many, many hundreds of kilometres away from its provenance, Andria, north of Bari, was darn good. It came with agrodolce – sweet and sour, but with the emphasis on sour – vegetables, including tender aubergine and courgette. The contrast between richness and sharpness, even the textures, was delightful. Simple food, done well.
I can’t say quite the same about our plate of bresaola, thin slices of beef cured in much the same way as ham. The bresaola was fine; it’s a pretty uniform product. It came with pickled baby artichoke, a good idea, and a homeopathic quantity of flaked almonds. Why? It added even less to the dish than the thinly sliced radish. If there is tradition involved in this – and I can’t say – I wonder if it was adequately represented.
On the other hand, and keeping up the proud theme of simplicity, the pasta dishes were first rate and appropriately al dente or slightly resistant to the bite. The Irish tradition with pasta is to cook it until it’s uncomfortably close to mush or disintegration.
Tonnarelli alla Norcina was a triumph. Handmade tonnarelli – think thickish spaghetti (or spaghetti alla chittara, as it’s sometimes called) was given the traditional Umbrian treatment with crumbled spicy Norcina sausage, truffle and lots of Pecorino cheese. It was the very definition of savoury, rich, creamy, a pasta dish to conjure with. And, oh yes, simple too. Very simple.
Ravioli Asiago e porcini were little packets of Asiago cheese and porcini mushroom encased in egg pasta, served very simply with just-cooked datterini tomatoes, those little sweet ones from Sicily, and short lengths of asparagus. I think this dish comes from much further south than the tonnarelli, the hot, sunny region of Basilicata.
After all this, pudding was out of the question. We simply lingered, until quite late, finishing our bottle of Nebbiolo Langhe, appropriately enough. So late, indeed, it would have been unreasonable to order coffee. The bill, including a carafe of white and a bottle of red wine, came to a very reasonable €101.