Announcing the arrival of your new restaurant in the centre of Limerick City by having the name gilded onto the window in double height silver lettering might seem a tad over confident. But, in the case of La Cucina Centro, which opened in early November on Henry Street, that confidence is well placed.
Rarely has a new restaurant opened in which every single detail is so perfectly formed. From the shade of grey on the walls, to the light fittings, to the staff uniforms, the design ethic is superbly well realised, thanks to the team of designer Tullio Orlandi and sign writer Tom Collins. As a result, the queues for a table in LCC are, quite literally, out the door. On the evening we were there, over seventy people were turned away.
Lorraine Fanneran and Bruno Coppola are well known in Limerick food circles because of the success of the original La Cucina, in Castletroy. But the realisation of their vision with Cucina Centro exceeds even the highest expectations that might have been set by the original. If the arrival of a trio from McKennas Guides on opening week caused any nerves to jangle, they certainly weren’t visible. Seated on a high table across from the kitchen pass we watched a parade of fantastic dishes fashioned by the crew under head chef Alessandro Croccolino make their way to a room that was bursting with people having a brilliant time.
The menu is firmly Italian, with Antipasti, Insalate, Pizza and Primi dishes on a printed menu and then a list of main courses and desserts on a separate board. We kicked off with an Nduja pizza and a large plate of mixed Antipasto to share. The spicy kick from the Calabrian sausage in the pizza was a great wake up for the palate and the selection of meats, cheeses, olives and breads on the sharing plate was all delicious, with a paper-thin sheet of lardo being particularly satisfying.
A bisteca rib eye with porcini sauce for one of us offered deeply flavoursome meat, sourced from Garrett Lander’s butcher’s shop, charred to perfection. A dish of amatriciana octopus with squid ink pasta was perfectly judged - squid ink pasta can overwhelm if not cooked with care but this was a knockout dish. For myself a fruitti di mare with prawns, mussels and clams with spaghetti was chock full of wonderfully fresh shellfish, each element cooked just á point.
From a short dessert selection the star was the birramisu, a riff on tiramisu but with a Guinness kick which reined in the sweetness and created great balance. On the drinks side there’s craft beers from Treaty City Brewing, an interesting wine list, plans for a Italian cocktail list, and the staff are savvy and knowledgeable. Our entire evening amounted to a bravura performance from a team that set themselves the highests standards, and then blew the roof off those standards. Suddenly, Limerick city has the dining destination it has needed for so long. Bravo La Cucina Centro, bravo!
Photos credit Eamon Barret