When you think of Italian food in Temple Bar you probably conjure up images of pizza slices at 4am.
Despite this area being pitched to tourists as the very best Dublin has to offer in terms of entertainment, food and general craic, the amount of times locals step onto the cobbled lanes with a purpose feels rare enough.
When was the last time you pinged a few friends in the Whatsapp group and said “let’s go grab a bite in Temple Bar”?
My guess is never. And, as I’ve discovered a few times of late, that’s a real shame.
The biggest shame of all is that you’d be missing out on one of the best little Italian restaurants in the city, Rosa Madre, which is tucked away on Crowe Lane.
It’s only been open a few months and I get the feeling Dubliners don’t have a clue about it.
You are met at the door by a huge cabinet which is iced and packed full of fish and shellfish.
Everything from giant prawns through to lobsters and whole sea bass.
Being met by this much fresh produce, that the establishment happily put on display rather than hiding away out the back, means that I give them a huge vote of confidence. They’ve nothing to hide and everything looked as fresh AF.
You are also met by Luca, the restaurant manager.
The man is as passionate a foodie as I’ve ever come across in Dublin and is bursting with energy. A menu becomes a mere inconvenience when he is around as he talks you through the dishes, specials and the fish they’ve caught that morning.
Luca talked me into having a carpaccio of red prawn.
He explained that he’d been trying to get these prawns for as long as he’d been in Ireland and how it was something we couldn’t afford to miss.
The prawns were sliced carpaccio style and served with a little lemon.
Most people might turn their noses up at raw prawns, and even suspect they’d get food poisoning, but the reality is that the fresh, rich and lush flesh was a joy to eat.
As mains we had a homemade pasta dish with chilli and tomato
We also had a whole baked sea bass.
You can choose how you want the fish cooked and I was delighted to hear they were offering it in a salt crust.
If you’ve never had this Mediterranean style of cooking I suggest you come just for this. The salt crust seals in all the moisture and leaves you with the best cooked fish you’ll ever taste.
Rosa Madre is a real find, and it deserves to be packed every single night of the week.
People often think about a meal is all about the food.
For me, it is always about the overall experience.
Head down there and ask for Luca — he won’t see you wrong.