At first glance Bellagio, Terenure is your typical local Italian restaurant serving bruschetta, pizza and pasta. Neighbourhood restaurants need to be sure they can attract the conservative as well as the adventurous diner so yes there are (excellent) takeaway pizzas for under a tenner and you will find words like Carbonara and Bolognese on the menu, but this is not the whole story. Bellagio has become my default restaurant and I think it is time I shared the reasons why with the readers of the Bridgestone Guides.
A quick example - a few weeks back I had a nigh on perfect lobster linguine for around €22 including a tail and a couple of claws while my 10 year old had a perfectly cooked thin based pepperoni pizza and herself ate from our plates and her generous starter of deep fried calamari and we glugged a bottle of fine Aglianico - all for under €60. Pasta is always perfectly cooked, espresso is perfectly made and I have often been advised to spend less on a bottle of wine because the cheaper bottle would work better with what we ordered.
My experience last week however was something few people in Ireland have ever experienced - a surfeit of truffles. Not synthetic truffle oil and sadly not €3000 per kilo Piedemonte white truffles (this is a recession after all); but very fine black Abruzzi truffles which only cost a few hundred a kilo!.
Bellagio's first truffle evening was this time last year and was hugely over subscribed. This year was as good if not better. We were guaranteed at least 10g in every course and I think this was an underestimation as it did not seem to include the truffle in the pasta, the cheeses, the bread and even the chocolates served with the coffee.
The meal began as soon as we opened the door and were greeted with an overwhelming aroma of fresh truffles. The eating began with Crostini with Truffle Pate - crusty truffle infused Italian bread topped with a generous portion of minced truffle and mushroom and some extra slices of black truffles to sniff and munch between bites.
Next up was wafer thin, sweet and slightly nutty Beef Carpaccio with Rocket, Shaved Truffle and Grand Padano - perfectly raw but well seasoned and again with truffle shavings the size of the old £1 coin. Herself had the Skewer of Scallops and Prawns with Truffle Sauce which had perfectly cooked fish but we were a little unsure about the sauce - the texture a little thicker than we would have liked and the truffle flavour a little lost. Still the truffle shavings made up in spades.
Black Truffle Tagliatelle with Black Truffle Shavings was correctly cooked pasta smelling delicately of truffles and covered in large shavings. Commercial truffle pastas can be disappointing but this was one of the best I have tasted. The only criticism was the portions were far too generous; however we both took our left overs home with us for lunch the next day.
The mains were a choice of Sea Bass or Rack of Lamb. The lamb was four large chops in a rich sweet meaty sauce, very typical of what you would find in Italy. My truffled duchesse potatoes were light and fluffy with just a hint of truffle but once again the huge shavings gave us yet more truffle goodness. The sea bass was also good - not over cooked and with sweet cannellini beans and of course lots of extra truffle.
Finally the cheese plate included 5 years aged sweet and intense red cow parmigiano, truffle pecorino, fontina, some fresh figs and a light (and not too sweet) blackcurrant compote. Our nigh on perfect espresso arrived with the final truffle flourish but this time mixed with chocolate truffle
Owner Fabio Capelli sheds a silent tear sometimes when he sees three more spaghetti bolognese and a lasagne leaving the kitchen but the regular Irish customers expect certain things from their local pizza-pasta places and he is happy to provide it, knowing as he does that he can occasionally offer truffle infused pecorino or the freshest scallops and baby clams to those who understand a little more about the joys of the Italian kitchen.
The Truffle menu described above cost €69 per person but was worth twice as much.
The a la carte truffle menu continues until November 7th - more info at http://www.bellagiorestaurant.ie/
Bellagio Restaurant, 92 Terenure Road North, Dublin 6w. Tel: 01-492 7625
Open Monday - Sunday from 12.30pm -10.30pm
Lunch special served Monday to Saturday until 5pm. - 2 courses 9.95.
Early bird 5pm until 7.30pm Monday umtil Thursday.