DUBLIN 7 WINS AGAIN:
CELESTIAL STONEYBATTER

Grano
5 Norseman Court
Manor Street
Stoneybatter
Dublin 7
Phone: 01 538 2003


Grano.ie

Irish Daily Mail
5 January 2019

Well, Dublin 7 has won again, this time with outstanding pasta, glorious Italian authenticity and lovely wines.

Yes, if this continues, the greater Phibsborough/Stoneybatter area will be one of the most desirable Dublin addresses. Can it be that the Luas has done all this?

No, but it has helped. Rents in this part of the capital are, I gather, quite painful but not as excruciating – yet – as elsewhere in Dublin. Hence you get people with vision but limited means wanting to bring their idea of eating out to the people.

Owner Roberto grew up in Calabria, the far south of Italy, and lived for many years in Bologna. All Italians take food very seriously, more seriously even than the French; and these two regions, along with Piemonte, are my idea of gastronomic Nirvana.

His mother and, I think, grandmother, ran a restaurant in Roberto’s home town and on the day I visited Mamma Roma was behind the counter making pasta. Add to this the fact that so many of the raw materials are directly imported and you can understand how, as soon as you open the door of Grano you know – in fact, you can smell - immediately that this is not a trattoria.

I now wash my mouth out for having even mentioned the word in this context. Grano is certainly not what our New York cousins would call “a red sauce joint”.

I started with zuppa di orza perlata which, as the name implies, was a soup of nicely chewy pearl barley, but with the addition of very finely chopped and still al dente vegetables. So simple, so good.

Then came the orecchiette grano arso, gloriously textured little “ears” of handmade, house-made pasta with a tomato and burrata sauce (burrata being, of course, the creamiest of fresh mozzarella). Grano arso is literally burnt flour; think of this southern Italian staple as flour that has been toasted to bring out an intensely nutty, almost smoky character. It turns pasta dark; and it turns it into something with a taste of its own, not just a texture.

This nuttiness, the chew of the pasta, the tartness of tomato, the earthiness of the long-cooked sauce and the creaminess of the burrata all combined to create something greater than the sum of the parts. And the parts were bloody brilliant to start with.

Facebook.com/GranoDublin

Remarkably for me, who has been cursed, or possibly blessed, with a very small appetite since childhood, I decided to order another main course portion of pasta. I should stress that lunchtime portions are modest; fine for me, and for anyone who wants to avoid a post-prandial pasta slump, but some, of course, may carp. They will be people who confuse quantity with quality.

Anyway, this was tagliatelle with a Bolognese sauce and I have to say it was rather better than my version, which is praise indeed because I’ve been working on and refining mine since my student days. The kitchen at Grano uses several cuts of beef and pork, minced of course, and cooks the whole thing for eight hours. I use the bottom oven of the Aga for this.

It had the depth that can come only from long cooking and a certain something that comes from the addition of a little milk. This was a ragu to conjure with and I’m now revising mine. Slightly.

Too full for pudding, Roberto persuaded me to have a little Testun al Barolo, a sharp cheese topped with the spent grapes that come from the production of one of Italy’s great red wines. Plus a little dried fig stuffed with a walnut. Plus, a little glass – just enough for this mini-dessert – of I Capitelli, the zingy, crisp, honeyed desert wine from the Veneto. This was simply heavenly. Simply, in that it was so straightforward. Heavenly as in celestial. You get the picture.

And then a perfect espresso, short and calculated to stiffen one’s resolve to return to the harsh reality outside the door.

The bill, with an indulgent three glasses of excellent wines, came to €50. Celestial indeed.