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Da Mirco review: This restaurant is so wonderful I want to go back the very next day

A traditional Italian osteria with homemade pasta and delicious food

Da Mirco
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Address: 4 Bridge St, Cork, T23 H10E
Telephone: 021 241 9480
Cuisine: Italian
Cost: €€€

I am frequently asked what my favourite restaurant is. The answer of course starts with a big “depends”, but my default setting is for somewhere casual with great food and a decent drop of wine. Favourite means a place I’d like to go back to time and time again, right? But all too often, the restaurant that slips into this category is the convenient one down the road. I’m all for supporting local, but seriously, some of these mediocre places really luck out. I say that with a finger resolutely pointed at “Italian” restaurants.

Da Mirco is the sort of restaurant that makes my pulse race when I walk in the door. Suitably pared back with a wooden floor, white walls, simple tables and chairs, festival lights and the odd frilly green plant, it is the polar opposite of the restaurants owned by large operators, with their glossy fit-outs and pedestrian food, which have primed the Insta generation.

Most of us have a decent benchmark for Italian food. We’ve travelled to Italy, stumbled upon a small family-owned trattoria serving pasta cooked by a nonna and bored the pants off everyone since returning home to our local Marco’s, Mario’s or Guisippe’s. So hold that thought, because that’s what you’ll get in Mirco Fondrini’s traditional osteria in Cork.

First, there’s the price: €39 for a starter and a main, and €32 for a main and dessert. Naturally we go for one of each, and ask for it to be served as four courses, which is absolutely no problem, as the menu is divided into antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci.

The wine list is a treat. It starts with a map of Italy, divided into the 20 regions (a familiar sight for me as I had a large hand-drawn one plastered to my bedroom wall when I was studying for my wine exams; yes, my poor long suffering husband). It’s in a ring binder, with each sheet in a plastic pocket.

There’s a contents list, a back section that classifies the wines by style and a short dictionary of terms. If you’re ever looking for a solo dining joint, this is your spot. Top marks for interesting reading material. There are aperitivi and wines by the glass – sparkling, orange, rosé, white and red; beers and soft drinks. There’s enthusiastic Coravin action at the bar station nearby. We opt for a Guidobono Langhe Nebbiolo 2021 (€49) which goes beautifully with our food.

Pasta is handmade each day, with a bronze extruder used for short pasta and a sheet pasta machine for lasagne sheets and ravioli. Charcuterie and some of the more specialised items are flown in directly from Valltelina, while everything else is sourced from Cork’s top producers. The white-shirted Italian waiting staff bound in burgundy aprons complete the picture.

A native of Morbegno in Northern Italy, Fondrini came to Cork via London and worked as the manager of the Farmgate Café in the English Market for 14 years, before opening this cosy 30-seater in 2018. The menu follows the “don’t mess with good produce” principle admirably, although I flinch slightly when I see that the cod is cooked sous vide (never a good idea).

We start with polenta ai radicchio, fonduta e lardo, with three quenelles of polenta, fried golden on the outside and quite dense. They work really well with the grilled radicchio, earthy mushrooms, cured lardo and Casera cheese fondue which cascades down. It comes with a side of rosemary focaccia.

Paccheri, I discover, are grown-up rigatoni; like cannelloni that has been cut into tubes. It’s perfectly al dente, tossed in a Percorino sauce with mussels and guanciale, the fat rendered like an amber jewel and tasting simply wonderful.

Italian roast pork follows, stuffed with fennel and herbs, served with grilled focaccia, and topped with pickled giardiniera. It has been served on two plates, as the pasta was, and is a very generous portion.

For dessert, there’s a choice from three options: dessert of the day, tiramisu or poached pear. Cheese is a €3 supplement. The pear has been poached in Marsala and served in a vanilla custard with a piece of hazelnut cake. It’s simple, delicious and a lovely end to our meal.

Da Mirco feels close to my perfect restaurant: simple food, good wine, a relaxed atmosphere, and a very affordable price point. Fondrini has an innate sense of what works, and the charming service ensures you are left in no doubt.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €120.

THE VERDICT: 9/10 This traditional osteria is so wonderful I want to go back the very next day

Music: Background, barely audible over chatter

Food provenance: O’Mahony’s Butcher, O’Sullivan’s Poultry, O’Connell Fishmongers, all from the English Market; Food for Humans Farm, and Tipi & Co, Valtenina.

Vegetarian options: Polenta with radicchio and Casera cheese, fagioli all’uccelletto, bigoli and Gorgonzola, and paccheri with mushrooms. Vegan options with prior notice.

Wheelchair access: Accessible room but no accessible toilet

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