Friday 26 April 2019

Italian Food Done Right in Stoneybatter: Grano, Dublin 7


Disclaimer: this is an independent review, I paid for my food and drinks.

Last year I attended Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Turin, a four-day food event organised by the Slow Food Movement every two years. The fair showcases artisan produce mostly from Italy but also from all over the world and visitors can attend talks, tastings and workshops. The Italian products were exhibited by region and I found myself returning to the stalls from Calabria the most, gravitating around their mountains of cured meats and cheeses. Calabria is a region in southwest Italy whose 'nduja, a spicy spreadable salami, has become a trendy ingredient on menus in some of Dublin's best restaurants over the last few years. I love that stuff but obviously, there's more to Calabria than 'njuda and thankfully Grano is here to educate our palates with not only Calabrian specialities but proper Italian food in general.

Having been unsuccessful in securing a dinner reservation for the past couple of weeks, Mr. FFID and I decided to visit Grano on a leisurely Thursday afternoon instead. Located on Stoneybatter's Manor Street, Grano is small but inviting. The lunchtime clientele was a mix of solo female diners, families and couples. A reasonably priced menu (one main for €9 or a starter and a main for €12 on Thursday and Friday 12-3pm) and a la carte menu were both available at lunchtime. They also have an early bird menu from 5pm to 7pm from Tuesday to Thursday and from 12pm to 7pm on Sundays (€19/€24).

We shared a small plate of slices of Capocollo ham (thinly sliced cured pork) served with dried figs stuffed with walnuts and a tiny ball of burrata on top. A very simple start to the meal with no cooking involved from the kitchen but quality ingredients and good flavours that opened our appetite.

Mr. FFID, a sucker for 'njuda, naturally ordered it as a starter. It was particularly fiery and hit the spot on a sliced of good toasted sourdough bread cut in half. My starter of 'alici e friggitelli' consisted of marinated anchovies and Napolitan frigitelli peppers with a tomato sauce and sourdough bread also went down a treat.

One of my main motivations for visiting Grano was the fact that they make their own pasta, which is not the case of all the 'Italian' restaurants in Dublin. While having lunch we actually got to see the kitchen staff making some, which obviously added to the authentic feel.

Mr. FFID's tagliatelle alla Bolognese was the highlight of the meal, combining freshly made pasta with a rich flavoursome ragù. Comfort food at its best. My fileja al pomodoro consisted of a type of traditional Calabrian pasta served in an organic tomato sauce with basil leaves. It basically tasted like Italian sunshine on a plate.

We wanted to order every dessert on the menu but reasonably shared a deconstructed cannolo instead (€6.50). Cannolo shells were broken and topped the ricotta base, which was sprinkled with pistachio and chocolate. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the candied orange advertised on the menu. Not a big deal, it was just the right amount of sweetness to end the meal on.

The bill came to €57 before service for a small plate to share, two starters, two mains, a dessert and two glasses of organic wine. For this price, it certainly felt like one of the best value restaurant lunches I've had in a long time. You could always go to a café for a cheaper lunch but you wouldn't get those lovely laid-back Italian vibes. Grano is all about simplicity, a refreshing break from the current trend of new places "trying too hard". Mix quality Italian ingredients with good cooking and welcoming service, in an increasingly foodie neighbourhood, and you have the perfect recipe for a successful Italian restaurant.

5 Norseman Court
Manor Street
Dublin 7
Grano's website