On a hot, sticky evening a group of us headed out for dinner in Dublin in search of some fine Italian food. We had booked a table in Temple Bar’s Il Vicoletto. Located on Crow Street, the small restaurant has been serving up traditional Italian food for the last 20 or so years. (Fun fact: Il Vicoletto translates as The Alley)
The walls were lined with wine bottles, the floor was well worn and wooden, and an open plan view to the kitchen. I’m always a fan of being able to see the chefs at work. It brings you closer into the restaurant. It’s a small space once you get seated and with full seating can seem crowded and noisy.
Il Vicoletto have a well priced early bird menu with some great options for €25 for 3 courses. That’s really good value, especially for this side of Dublin City. But most of us decided against this and went for the a la carte or something from the specials board.
Our waitress was friendly and easily recited back all of the daily specials and they all sounded great. Risotto, a couple of different types of ravioli and sea bass were all in there. We were all hungry so we ordered up a big plate of bruschetta to share, as well as our own starters and mains.
After we ordered, a bowl of fresh sliced bread was served to the table as well as our drinks, a couple of beers, a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine. Mopping up olive oil and balsamic vinegar with bread is such a simple pleasure. There’s something almost therapeutic about it.
Our starters arrived quickly and we made room for them on the table with the bruschetta. I got the calamari in crosta con salsa carpione. Deep fried calamari coated in flour served with salad and sweet & sour sauce. This is one of Il Vicoletto’s signature dishes and one I would highly recommend. The texture of the calamari was crispy and smooth. No over cooked chewy calamari here! And a sweet and sour sauce was exactly that, a beautiful balance of flavour, and with the slightly salty calamari it was a excellent dish.
I also tried some of the Carpaccio di Manzo, thinly sliced flash seared beef, rocket, cherry tomatoes and shaved parmesan drizzled with balsamic dressing. It was fine. Not a lot to write home about. Nothing really stood out from the dish. It was well presented but just tasted a bit bland.
As my main I went for one of the special raviolis. Ham ravioli in a creamy cheese sauce topped with shaved truffle. The sauce was thick and covered the pasta well, however the pasta itself tasted dry. Regardless of the amount of sauce you ate with the pasta you could not shift that dry feeling. Given that this was special dish I expected a lot more, both in terms of flavour and the amount of food in the dish. Each piece of ravioli contain a small amount of ham in comparison to the size of the pasta.
The seafood pasta which, although was tasty, did not have a lot of seafood and some of the few mussels served in it remained unopened. This was a bit disappointing as the last thing you wanted to do was prise open mussels for dinner! The rest of the group’s mains were fine. Nobody had anything exceptional to say about any of them, good or bad.
Too Much Too Fast
The service however, was off putting. For such a small place there seemed to be a lot of staff, each one had a different roles as well. One to replace the cutlery, one to grate cheese, one to grate the truffle, one to take the order, one to serve the food. It was overwhelming to be fussed over by this many people and made us a bit uncomfortable as they were on us ever couple of minutes. Wine glasses were topped up after a mouthful was drank and asks of “Another beer?” with half a bottle left made it feel like they wanted to move us out as quick as they could. I think we were in and out in under 80 minutes.
When it came to order dessert we all declined as by this point we had had enough and wanted to move on elsewhere. Splitting the bill between the 6 of us came to just shy of €50 each including tip. And even though the service wasn’t great we did include a tip. We did this as more of an obligation to the 5 or 6 Il Vicoletto staff that had served us during the meal. In hindsight the early bird would have been a much better offer had we taken it.
When I try to contrast this to some where else I visited recently, Kai in Galway, in terms of experience and value there was no comparison. Overall the food in Il Vicoletto was ok. Portions were a little small but the rushed feeling of the evening did leave a sour taste in the mouth. I wouldn’t be running back to this alley in a hurry.