Rosa Madre is a warm and welcoming Italian restaurant with excellent fish specials and traditional Italian hospitality, says Leslie Williams.
DUBLINERS and Dublin restaurants seem to be finally embracing the joys of the seas that surround our small island — there are now more than a dozen restaurants in the city where fish is not just an afterthought but a feature.
Of course chefs like Ross Lewis in Chapter One, Graham Neville in Forty One, and similar have always had excellent fish dishes but we don’t know ourselves now that Super Miss Sue and Fish Shop and others have shown what can be done in the mid-range.
Luca di Marzio opened Rosa Madre in February 2016 having spent the previous number of years in the Westbury Hotel.
His plan was to recreate the kind of restaurants he would want to visit himself when back in his native Rome.
Italian cooks prize seasonality and freshness over everything so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to be greeted on entering Rosa Madre by the wet fish counter with red mullet, sole, turbot, bream and various shellfish all bright-eyed and glistening with ice crystals.
I could be wrong but I can’t think of another Dublin restaurant that displays its fish like this and certainly not in the city centre.
The sight of the fish was not just pleasing to the eye but felt like a declaration of pride and intent.
I arrived a little earlier than my guest and had an interesting chat with Luca about the wine list while I munched on olives and excellent crusty Italian bread.
The wine list is a decent size with lots of Italian classics and plenty of choice under €35 but also lots of wines to splash out on should you be in the humour for a Brunello or a Barolo.
He was keen for me to try some of the more renowned wines on the list but in the end I went for Arboreo Pecorino from Abruzzo for €34, a wine di Marzio imports himself.
Pecorino is an underrated Italian grape that is perfect for fish given its light jasmine and spice aromas and brisk acidity.
You can order lots of Italian classics such as Bruschetta and Melanzania alla Parmigiana (baked aubergine with Parmesan) and of course pasta and steak at Rosa Madre, but we were here for the fish.
We began with carpaccio of blue-fin tuna and grilled crumbed scallops in the shell — the tuna was sweet and delicate and the crispy lemon breadcrumbs encasing the scallops also whetted the appetite nicely.
The scallops were a little firmer than was ideal thanks I suspect to the heat of the grill which was a pity but this was still a tasty dish.
Whole Black Sole was simply floured and fried in butter and lemon and then filleted at the table — just barely cooked with the tiniest hint of translucence.
A whole black sole for €26 is really excellent value given the cost of this glorious fish — you will struggle to find it on a menu for less than €32 elsewhere in Dublin.
My guest’s ‘mixed grilled fish’ included split prawns and shrimp and a large sensitively cooked Sea Bream which again was filleted at the table to show off its freshness (it is almost impossible to disguise sub-standard fish when cooked whole).
For sides we requested some baby potatoes roasted with rosemary and salt and simple char-grilled aubergine and courgettes.
Portions were large but we struggled through, enjoying hugely the simple perfection of properly cooked fish and two veg.
It is the duty of a restaurant reviewer to always order dessert so the idea of a selection plate to share appealed — of course we might as well have ordered three desserts such were the generous portions.
The rich creamy Canolo (singular of ‘Canoli’) and the fluffy light Tiramisu were our favourites but there were no duds desserts.
Chocolate Almond ‘Caprese’ torte and ‘Torto della Nonna’ also worked — the latter enlivened with pine nuts and a good bitter-sweet lemon custard cream which matched nicely with excellent glasses of (complementary) limoncello.
At the end of the meal I was a little angry with myself that I had left it so long to visit Rosa Madre.
The hospitality and value for money will bring me back but so will the measured precise cooking.
A meal for two with a bottle of San Pelligrino, a bottle of white wine (€34), two starters, two main course fish specials and a large shared dessert plate cost just €125
Sunday: 4pm -11pm
In a Sentence: A warm and welcoming Italian restaurant in Temple Bar with excellent fish specials and traditional Italian hospitality.
Rosa Madre, 7 Crow Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.
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