plan of italian
A lack of pretension, coupled with a tasty menu, a good wine list, and a convivial atmosphere had charmed Lucinda O'Sullivan. All was well until the clampers cast their shadow on her evening
oodie types tend to be a tad sniffy of 'ordinary' Italian restaurants, unless they are of the 'new Italian' variety. However, go to any Italian restaurant and you will find them packed with people who just want good, heartwarming grub -- sans any pretension -- a bottle of Chianti, and maybe a bit of outrageous charm from the Italian waiter.
Manifesto, an Italian restaurant in the centre of Rathmines, was no different when we arrived as walk-ins on a Tuesday night. We just got the last table. Either the recession is over, or they are doing something very right. Inside the door is a big, wood-burning oven manned by a person who seemed to be the Maestro; he was belting the pizzas in and out, but he gave us the nod that we would soon be looked after.
The restaurant is long and narrow, with red-brick walls and wooden beams. We liked the atmosphere, with groups of co-workers, families, couples, young guys and girls, a few intelligentsia types with books and scarves, and, worse still, a couple of media types, all chowing down and looking happy. You got the feeling there was personal interest and attention to detail, with really nice, big glassware, good cutlery and linen table runners.
When it came to the menu, the antipasti selection (€8-€12) struck me as being a tad pricey, with most starters being in double figures at €11 or €12, apart from bruschetta tricolore at €8; chicken roulade at €8; and aubergine Parmigiana at €9. With pastas (€14-€21), pizzas (€12-€15), and secondi piatti (€17-€24), being reasonable enough, the antipasti struck me as slightly out of proportion -- and, perhaps, a deterrent for some people in these times. Tagliere del buongustaio (€11) for me was a good assortment of cold meats and cheeses served on an enormous board, including Parma ham, coppa, mortadella, salami, fingers of cheese and black olives.
Fagottino di carpaccio con champignons et tartufo (€11) was pretty substantial: tied bundles of raw beef filled with sliced mushrooms, and yet more beef, tweaked with a tomato, julienned cucumber, and sliced champignons. Perfect for the real Desperate Dan beef man -- and Brendan enjoyed them too.
Primi piatti, pastas, risotto and gnocchetti included different-sounding dishes, such as homemade potato and nettle dumpling with a ragout of mixed mushrooms and Italian sausage; or cavatelli pasta made with chestnut flour and cooked with porcini mushrooms, prawns and red beans. Secondi piatti included chicken, duck, sea bass and monkfish dishes, as well as an 8oz beef fillet and a sliced, chargrilled rib-eye dish, while there were a dozen-plus pizzas.
I opted for a summery spaghetti dish in a rich cherry-tomato sauce with a half lobster at €21, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The lobster shell and claw were used as presentation, while the tail was chopped through the pasta. Pollo Manifesto (€17) for Brendan was a really tasty baked breast of chicken stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and Parmesan, and it was served smothered in a sun-dried tomato sauce and with a side order of choice -- in his case, diced roast potatoes -- all very nice.
Desserts were reasonably priced at €6, and we ordered torta ricotta et pere -- a "tart made with ricotta cheese infused with pear". The term tart was loosely interpreted, as the dessert consisted of thick, creamy ricotta, which was mixed with pear cubes and sandwiched between two biscuits, with a cappuccino sauce dip on the plate.
There is a good selection of Italian wines from Salice Salentino to Barolo and, with a lovely bottle of Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba (€29.50), our bill with optional service, which was excellent and attentive, came to €105.50.
Be careful when parking. We parked across the road on Leinster Square, not realising it was pay parking or permits until midnight and not 7pm, as we assumed. €80 to be de-clamped sure made it an expensive night out for us.
208 Lower Rathmines Rd, Rathmines,
Tel: (01) 496-8096