Jones’ road. The scene on summer evenings is often of celebration or despair. Heading to the pub happy, or heading on the long drive home thinking about what went wrong. A summer, unlike others, has left the area without those match day crowds and without the matchday revenue a lot of businesses in the area rely on.
Drumcondra and the surrounding area, have another reason to make the journey, just north of the city centre worthwhile, and that’s it’s restaurants & cafes. Middle Eastern delight Shouk, Anderson’s Creperie, Fagan’s Sunday lunch and more recent addition Eatyard, all bring in hungry customers from far beyond the local postcodes.
It’s back to Jones’ road though and just over the bridge onto Russell street where one will find a neighbourhood Italian with the focus on traditional Sardinian dishes. Wallace’s Asti has been serving stonebaked pizza and Italian pasta favourites since 2008. It doesn’t take us long to see why. Tables are spread out along the large front window with a busy open kitchen on the other side of diners, this leaves plenty of space between customers or else partitions in between, the new normal.
Asti is part of the ‘Wallace’s Italian Winebars’ group who also operate Wallace’s Taverna, Caffe Cagliostro and recent opening Sfuso (will visit soon) in Dublin’s Italian quarter. So of course, the wine list’s substantial and dominated by Italian classics like Barolo or Valpolicella. Novecentonovantanove catches the eye on the menu, we are informed it’s a natural wine from Veneto produced by Nevio Scala the former footballer and manager best known for being at the helm at Parma during their 90’s ‘Golden Era’. Aromatic with smooth tannins, herbaceous and cherry notes. Wonderful.
We begin with the Black Focaccia, made with the dough of Pinsa Romana Nera and giving its distinctive black colour by natural vegetable charcoal. Warm and delicious with a slight crunch, perfect for mopping up balsamic and olive oil. Starters consist of a fresh and delicious Bruschetta al Pomodoro with buffalo mozzarella €8 and Tagliere Sardegna €13.50 a selection of artisan cured meats and cheeses all of Sardinia including salsiccia nepente, ricotta mantecata along with grilled vegetables, artichokes, breads, olives, honey and more. This is a feast at an incredible value!
I am lucky enough to live close by, so I utilised the collection service during the lockdown and had a couple of the stone-baked pizzas to takeaway. Wallace’s know what they are doing and would give any pizza in the city a true run for its money. Choose between traditional Neapolitan or the aforementioned Black Pinsa dough. Today is a day for pasta though and it’s a true taste of Sardinia that really excites me. Fregola ai Frutti di mare €20, Fregola is a hand-made small spherical pasta that is found on menus all over the island, often served with Frutti di mare – mixed seafood – cherry tomatoes, chilli and white wine sauce. Beautifully served with mussels and prawns sitting atop of the pasta, the fregola holds a slightly nutty and is cooked to perfection. My companion opts for Spaghetti carbonara €17, once again, wonderfully traditional using only eggs, black pepper, guanciale cured pork cheek and pecorino.
An extremely attractive Chocolate fondant is gooey and luscious but the star of the sweets is the Seada. Walking the tightrope between savoury and sweet, these ravioli-like semolina pastries are filled with cheese, fried and then drizzled with honey and icing sugar. Possibly the most famous dish from Sardinia, a spectacle when torn apart to reveal the melted stringy cheese. Chowed down with a glass of sweet Moscato from guess where? Yes, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of our next travel destinations, whenever that may be.
No Italian night is complete without a shot of Grappa to finish and we exit with a merry smile upon our face, knowing we have found a local gem to return to on future occasions. Great wine by famous footballers in the shadow of our famous football stadium, the new Italian summer holiday.