Bell Pesto Cafè review: “If I had a Christmas party to organize, I would book this authentic little Italian pronto”
A few years ago, when I was working in Soho, London, it was my job to organize the office Christmas party. My boss was notoriously stingy, and an initial suggestion that he bring everyone to Alastair Little on Frith Street met with the lack of enthusiasm I should have expected. We ended up going to the Pollo Bar on Old Compton Street, a Spanish restaurant where delicious main courses cost five dollars and the wine was both cheap and drinkable. The party was a success.
The first Christmas emails started to arrive and I thought about where I would choose if I found myself in this role of party planner on a budget again. I think I might have found the answer on James’s Street, where an under the radar Italian restaurant turns out to be a gem.
I first spotted a menu from Bell Pesto Cafè on Twitter. The cafe, near St James’s Hospital, has a busy daily activity, serving classic Italian dishes such as fresh pesto pasta (both made on site), slice pizzas and a good porchetta, and offers a different regional Italian menu each month, serving dinner from Thursday to Sunday. Last month the dishes came from Emilia Romagna and the September menu is from the Marche, located between the Apennines and the Adriatic. The dish that made me sit down and pay particular attention was Crostone con Trippe – yes, that’s beef tripe. If the folks at Bell Pesto were brave enough to serve guts, they were worth a visit.
I can’t claim tripe is a dish that I particularly enjoy, and I have an unfortunate memory of ordering lampredotto – a tripe sandwich – at a workers’ cafe near the market while visiting Interrailing student in Florence. I found it too funky to eat, even drizzled with traditional salsa verde. At Bell Pesto, the tripe doesn’t stink, but tender and almost bland, served in an excellent fresh tomato sauce on sourdough bread, and generously sprinkled with Parmesan.
There is no problem getting in and out of the regional menu, so we order Parmigiana di Melanzane – a very good interpretation, like another starter. Eggplants are cooked long enough and at a high enough temperature to be properly tasty. Spaghetti carbonara, with a suitable sauce made from smoked guanciale which is lightly taken in the cooking process to provide an extra layer of flavor, egg yolk, parmesan and pecorino, and black pepper – not cream – is a dish that doesn’t look much like the plate but my god it tastes good.
We are back in Les Marche for the other main courses. Vincisgrassi is probably the sauce most associated with the region. At Bell Pesto, the mixed meat ragù, made with finely chopped chicken, pork and beef (traditionally there is also offal), is stuffed in cannelloni with a nutmeg béchamel and pan-fried wild mushrooms. . It’s rich and delicious. The homemade fettuccines are accompanied by a ragù di pesce, the simmered fish sauce made from skate, squid, tuna and shrimp. It sounds more interesting than it looks. Surprisingly, the modest-sounding maltagliati e this, a chickpea and rosemary soup in which float pieces of fresh diamond-shaped pasta, turns out to be our favorite dish, embodying the simplicity and subtlety in which Italian cuisine. excels. Remarkably, it’s vegan. I have no idea how to make vegetable broth taste so good.
For the pudding, we share a huge serving of Ciambellone Rustico Marchigiano – a sweet, dry bread filled with Nutella and amaretti, topped with sugar confetti and with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate sauce on the side. . It’s quite sweet and the taste is as you would expect from this list of ingredients. The bill for three, with a glass of Prosecco and two bottles of organic Sangiovese (33 €) from a menu that would benefit from being longer and more varied, amounts to € 151.30.
The people behind Bell Pesto are Chef Enzo d’Elia, his wife Simona Panti and Tamara Barbato, who met while working at Enoteca Torino in Inchicore and have a lineage that goes back to the Marches of Rome, when it was was on Chatham Street. The high-ceilinged space lacks a bit of ambience, in that it is overly lit and the hard surfaces and furnishings are austere (which feels quite authentically Italian) but the service is lovely which is fine. airy, there is a fully accessible bathroom and the food is excellent.
Go there with a gang as the prices for wine and food are reasonable and you will bring your own atmosphere with you. If I had a Christmas party to organize I would book Bell Pesto pronto.
At noon, you can have a slice of Margherita pizza for € 3.50.
The three-course dinner menu is € 27.90 per person.
Bell Pesto Cafè, 43-44 James’s Street, Dublin 8, bellpesto.com