What should we know about Apertivo Cicchetti?
It's the latest opening on Nassau Street from The Port House group, who are also due to open new Portugese pastelaria Lisboa in the next few weeks. They've pitched it as an Italian small plate, wine & cocktail bar, with a serious selection of Aperitifs, Negronis & Spritzes, designed to "make you feel as though you have been transported to an Italian swing joint in the 1950s."
It's very intimate and atmospheric inside, with Ingo Mauer's Campari light fixtures giving the whole room a red hue, dark wood panelling and exposed brick. They've done a great job of making it feel like you're not in Dublin any more. The petite, narrow room seats just over 20, and tables are close together, so don't expect privacy.
What did you drink?
They have a mean drinks list, with four types of negronis and all types of aperitivo, from Venezianos to Limoncello spritz. The house negroni is small but potent, poured from a large glass bottle, and we also liked the negroni rosato with grapefruit and prosecco.
The all Italian wine list also surprised us, with everything we tried over a couple of visits, from Soave to Vermentino packing a punch in all the right places. The red from Maretti is always a good bet with pasta or anything with a tomato based sauce - if in doubt, get the Langhe Rosso out.
What about the food?
The fritto misto stands out, with perfectly flour-dusted and deep-fried calamari, prawns, whitebait and courgette - or you can go for a full plate of any of the four. Deep-fried aubergine meatballs had great flavour, but needed a dip, while burrata with marinated tomatoes and bread was as good as you would hope, but €15 means it's a sharer.
We expected an Italian small plates restaurant to go hard on the pasta, but they were the weakest plates we had, with the pasta clearly dried and bought in, and sauces leaving much to be desired. Carbonara is inexplicably poured at the table from a cocktail shaker (if anyone has the answer as to why we'd love to hear it), and cacio e pepe was a poor, dry example.
Bucatini alla Vodka didn't have much going on either, but spinach and cheese tortellini tossed in sage butter was a step up, and one we'd order again. Pasta sizes are small, so one is unlikely to do you as a main.
Gnocchi with fennel sausage ragu was better too (although we don't think the gnocchi were freshly made either), and 'Panzerotti' (mini deep-fried calzone) filled with nduja, Taleggio & tomato sauce were an enjoyable, hand-held snack.
Vegetable sides of zucchini fritti (fried courgette) and patate al forno (roast potatoes) were great, and there's loads on here for vegetarians in general.
Desserts are limited and on the simple side, but both tiramisu and affogato were hard to find fault with, so no complaints here.
Why should I go?
Aperitivo is fun, the all-Italian drinks list is genuinely original in a city like Dublin, and staff were by and large fantastic. It's different, casual and affordable, and perfect for an intimate catch up when you want to hear each other speak. Go big on the fried fish and veg, easy on the pasta, and make sure it's not a school night so you can do that drinks list justice.
47 Nassau Street, Dublin 2