Back in the 90s, it was seen as very urban and sophisticated to know and frequent a “little Italian”, not the Berlusconi breed, but a cheap and cheerful eatery serving good food and hearty wine. Now that the financially naughty first decade is over, this is a habit we need to cultivate. Forget 5 courses and rolling to the pub, a plate of goodness and off to the pictures is the way forward. Bel Cibo, in Dublin’s Smithfield, is just what the twenty-teens ordered.
My partner and I dropped in on a freezing Friday evening, as we were in no mood to cook after a stressful week. Bel Cibo is right beside the Lighthouse Cinema, so there are always arty types chilling out over red wine and pizza, giving the place a great buzz. The interior could be better, to be honest. While I’m sure the chairs are very funky design-wise, they look like canteen chairs. Although they’re much comfier than they look. Other than that, the design is very ‘local Italian’, effortlessly so.
Bel Cibo is famous locally for it’s pizzas and offer a take out service so throughout the time we were there, people were dropping in and out to pick up a piping-hot pie box, licking their lips as they handed over the cash.
When we were there, we decided to forgo the pizza and my partner ordered Gnocchi Con Pomodoro Fresco E Mozzarella, while I chose Risotto Agli Asparagi. We also ordered a half bottle of Chianti from our attentive and courteous waitress. Didn’t hurt that she was cute as a button too
My partner loves gnocchi but has been disappointed many times (not mentioning any names Pichet), so when a plate with a generous portion of gnocchi, covered with a tomato sauce so full of tomatoes that the colour rose off the plate and with mozzarella melting throughout, that I thought her eyes could jump out. The sighs that greeted the first forkful told the rest of the story. It was just stodgy enough and the sauce was spot-on, with just a hint of basil through it.
Did I mention how cold the evening was? Freezing. Some people love a stew on a cold night, but for me there is nothing that ‘minds you’ like a good risotto. The problem, though, is that it’s very easy to make a bad risotto; over-cooked it can start to look like gruel. The risotto was a steaming plate full of perfectly-cooked rice, not mushy but still holding its shape and with enough strength to hold up some beautiful asparagus.
The meal was scrumptious and the wine was exactly as you’d expect a nice Chianti to be. All in all it was just what you need on a cold day in November. As with most restaurants, when the food is good, you start to notice the little things that bring a place up a notch or two. For example, the small bowl of Parmesan that arrived at our table was actual Parmesan shavings, not the processed breadcrumbs you usually get, plus, when the waitress poured our wine, she did that wrist-twist to make sure not a drop was lost. I know these are small details but they are the kind of thing that makes a difference.
The bill for this bellyfull of delight was just EUR33. Bel Cibo seem to have mastered the art of treating their customers like royalty while not ripping them off. Welcome to the new decade.
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