Perfetto at Etto
This Italian-inspired wine bar is doing revolutionary things with small plates of food
Stop reading this review. Now pick up a phone and ring the number at the bottom of the page to book a table. Done? Okay now you can read on. Because I think you’re going to love this new restaurant. But you’ll have to book ahead, or have given birth to a member of staff, to get fed there in the coming months. And here’s why.
It’s a wet Tuesday night, less than a week since Etto on Merrion Row opened its doors and half the tables are taken up with food people. What’s the collective noun for us as a bunch of writers, restaurant managers and food Tweeters, my friend and I wonder? A congealment, I reckon.
Etto is a teeny, blink- and-you’ll-miss-it, white-painted wine bar with blackboards outside on this strip just down from O’Donoghue’s pub. It used to be a branch of the vegetarian restaurant, Govindas.
The finer details of the menu blur in the haze of hunger and lust brought on by the words on the simple A4 sheet of white paper. There isn’t a dish on this Italian-inspired menu with which I wouldn’t want to get up close and personal. But hold those horses. I’ve been charmed by menus before. They whisper delicious sweet nothings but something slips between word and plate. Then all that hope dies in a sorry case of coitus disappointus.
The Irish restaurant scene is reaching a tipping point. It’s got the hang of brilliant ingredients and good ideas but the system is simply not training enough chefs well enough to execute them. The chef here is Barry Fitzgerald, former head chef of the Michelin-starred Harwood Arms in Fulham. Since coming home from London he’s done a pop-up restaurant and a stint at John Farrell’s Butcher Grill in Ranelagh. And now he’s here with friends who’ve opened this wine bar.
The team is young and bright-eyed with enthusiasm. The place is a white-painted stark room with exposed beams and light fittings that look like they were salvaged from a sunken ocean liner. Tealights add a glow and half of the space is given over to stool seating around a bar and along a side wall.
My guest Jeanne hones in on the meatballs, one of the small plate options. They remind her of her first hot date with a Sicilian who confessed his deep dark secret to her: his vegetarianism. She sought comfort from the shock in a plate of Sicilian meatballs. And yes reader, despite this, she married him.
There are nibbles, charcuterie boards, small and large plates and sides. The most expensive plate is €19. We get a carafe of the Soave and a couple of bottles of sparkling water and then the feasting or simple food inhalation begins. At one point I realise my elbows are pointing out like an excitable bantam hen as I rummage round on the plate to combine one taste bomb with another for maximum mouth explosion.