The Malting Tower
Grand Canal Quay
Phone: 01 662 4199
Underneath the arches, by Grand Canal Dock station is the source of the some of the best pizza in Dublin – and a range of other Italian-inspired cooking. Earthy but refined, impeccably executed but affordable. And it involves two Michelin-starred chefs.
I have often written of Osteria Lucio as one of Dublin’s hidden gems and it’s certainly true that if you didn’t know where to look for it, it’s very easy to miss. But it’s a hidden gem that’s always busy because so many people know that there are truly good things happening here beneath the railway arches of Grand Canal Dock.
For a time when Osteria Lucio opened first, it wasn’t clear who precisely was behind the venture. This meant that people could get used to the notion that it’s unpretentious and keenly priced before discovering that the restaurant’s DNA has more than a hint of very serious cuisine. Ross Lewis of Chapter One stepped out of the shadows, partnering with another Michelin-starred chef, his friend Luciano Tona, formerly Head Master Chef at ALMA, The international School of Italian Cuisine in Parma. This is a heady recipe and the proof is in the eating.
This is food rooted in tradition, in a proper understanding of Italian cooking, in two men’s love of simplicity, seasonality and first class raw materials with which they don’t want to mess.
Above all, it’s about straightforward cooking, using great ingredients and keeping prices tethered to the ground on which most of us walk. This is a restaurant in which you feel comfortable enough to stick your elbows on the table.
It’s also such a blessed relief to find Italian food (or, at the very least, Italian inspired) food that doesn’t involve a taste of the trattoria, an abundance of tomato sauce and a heavy oregano habit.
The front of the restaurant is dominated by a very serious wood-burning oven that hits 650ºC when in full spate. Pizzas are quite exceptional but it’s about more than that.
There are ciccheti which are, if you like, Italian tapas, the ones for which Venice is famous. Donna Leon’s Commisario Brunetti, you may remember, is as addicted to them as he is to espresso ristretto.
One example, the star in a glowing firmament is described thus on the menu: salt baked celeriac with pancetta, walnut pesto, apple and grated egg. In a curious sense, it didn’t taste of any of these ingredients; instead they came together in some kind of alchemy to produce a sense of savoury deliciousness that, frankly, puts yer usual umami in the ha’apenny place. This is a dish that has to be tasted to be understood.
The pasta and the gnocchi are the best in the capital by a long way and that old chestnut, tiramisu, is a textbook example of how this grand old pudding can be brilliant when not very sweet.
There is an earthiness to Osteria Lucio which is deeply refreshing. It’s informal food by people who understand cooking at the highest level but who like to let their hair down occasionally. That’s an amazing combination. Add a short, reasonably priced wine selection, plus the unflappable Robert Scanlon as manager and you have a recipe for happiness.