A pizza perfection with porchetta on the side

Superb ingredients make this new restaurant a pizza place for food lovers – at pizza chain prices

   
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Pizza e Porchetta

The olive oil in Pizza e Porchetta comes in medicine-sized bottles. It’s how I imagine olive oil was once sold in chemists as a tincture for pouring into ears or concocting other grisly cures for family ailments.

There’s nothing medicinal about this oil. It’s peppery and grass green. It is the best olive oil known to man, restaurateur Ronan Ryan says, archly, as he pops it on the table. And the provenance of the olives reads like a list of contraband substances. Moroccan black anyone? These great olives and oil come with the freshest focaccia, a sandwich of biscuity crispness on top and bottom and feathery insides to start our meal in a reinvented restaurant.

Pizza e Porchetta used to be The Bridge, a clubby steakhouse with lots of dark wood, leather and velvet. The new place is dramatically brighter with acres of subway (or urinal depending on your viewpoint) tiles hung with polished steel pizza spades and a curved wood-fired pizza oven where the cooking is going on in front of the bar customers. The kitchen used to be a hidden place in this restaurant; now it’s out there for all to see. Instead of the old velvet that used to line the underside of the tunnel ceiling which makes up the restaurant area, there’s a white rubbery material that bounces back when some curious teens stick their fingers in it to check.

Scandi-style chairs, bleached tables tops and bare walls (apart from night shots of the Dart passing over the bridge) have brought the look back from American to European.

The menu is a mix of the two. Chefs are Italian Simone Morandi and head chef Joshua Plunkett, who has David Chang’s New York restaurant Momofuku on his CV. I last ate his food at a pop-up night showcasing Irish seasonal food. It’s great to see him cooking in a more permanent venue. And this place is busy for a bitter Sunday evening in an out-of-the-way location.

The menu is a one-pager of 12-inch pizzas, salads, pastas and sides with prices similar to chain pizza restaurants. That’s where the similarity ends.

Carol’s chicken and bread starter is a moreish mix of torn chicken and oven crisped chunks of good bread with rocket, balsamic and sweetly caramelised red onions. I get a beautiful large white plate with salt-baked beets strewn over its whiteness. The pink lumps that look like ham are actually pink beets sweeter than a blast of spring sunshine. There are purple ones, gold ones, segments of pith-free orange and quivery mounds of excellent mozzarella cheese. I have to resist mopping it all up with another round of focaccia if there is to be any room for pizza.

I never eat pizza in restaurants because I’m married to Dublin’s best amateur pizza chef. But not eating the signature porchetta pizza dish would seem a bit churlish. The porchetta looks like strips of anaemic rashers sliced surgically thin with a dusting of herbs edging their strips of white sweet fat. It’s made from a boneless pork joint slow-cooked for hours and finished off in the wood-fire oven. The pizza base is credit-card thin under the toppings and puffed and papery at the edges. I’ve ordered it with extra pickled globe artichoke hearts (an extra €1). I’ll happily eat this again.

Carol’s wild mushroom risotto has all the right notes of butter, wine and garlic, chopped up shreds of chocolate brown mushrooms and whole small long-stemmed wild ones.

We finish with a shared white chocolate and raspberry panna cotta, which is the stuff of good desserts.

Pizza restaurants make business sense. That 12-inch round of dough sprinkled in pre-prepared toppings is a cash cow that is milked to great effect by the pizza chains. The quality of ingredients on the plates at Pizza e Porchetta takes it into another bracket: a pizza place for food lovers. And there’s piano playing some nights too. What’s not to love?

Dinner for two with two glasses of wine came to €69.50.

THE VERDICT:7/10 Excellent ingredients and posh pizza
Facilities: Hobbit-sized
Wheelchair access: Yes
Music: Rock and pop confined to the bar area
Vegetarian options: Good cheese and salad options
Food provenance: Wrights of Marino for the fish, Robinsons Meats and Sheridans and Italicatessan named.

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