Early this summer, Cirillo’s opened its doors on the Toner’s end of Baggot Street promising authentic but modern Italian antipasti, pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas, with Dubliner James Cirillo at the helm. Their pizza is made from a recipe by Cirillo’s Head Pizzaiolo (or pizza chef), Luca Mastracci Pupillo. They imported their wood-fired pizza oven from Naples, and make their pizza over a burning blend of Irish oak and ash. The dough itself is slow proved for 30 hours and their style is Napoletana, which means a dough made from type 00 flour, natural yeast, salt and water, topped with a tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.
All of these factors play a part in Cirillo’s pizza. It’s got those blistering bubbles that can only be achieved through the hot, hot heat of an authentic pizza oven. We go for the Nealo pizza (€14), which features spoonfuls of buffalo ricotta, slivers of onions, crumbles of really good spicy Italian ’nduja sausage on top of the traditional tomato and mozzarella base. It delivers on that promise of authenticity with an eye to the modern, and it’s very well received at my table.
The starters are good, too. A combination plate of bruschetta (€9) features good sourdough topped with well chosen ingredients, such as glitteringly shiny pickled anchovies, marinated tomatoes, and mushrooms with a sterling wild garlic pesto. The arancini plate (€8) features a delicious gorgonzola dip with basil oil, which the petite deep-fried risotto balls benefit from being dipped in.
There are three choices of pasta dishes, and the pasta is made from scratch here at Cirillo’s. A plate of casarecce (€16), twisted and rolled tubes of pasta, with kale and carbonara sauce is overpowered by the saltiness of the ham hock and lardo. It’s a shame, as the pasta is satisfyingly al dente.
For dessert, I’m drawn to the White Chocolate Risotto with roasted almonds, pomegranate and burnt butter milk sorbet (€7), partly because I’m intrigued to see how such a multitude of contrasting flavours will be pulled together in one dish. I can see the thought process behind this dessert, which was surely aiming for an Italian-style rice pudding that encapsulated the power of combining salt with sweet, and smooth with crunchy. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work at all. There are too many clashing tastes, leading to chaos for the tastebuds. A dark truffle and hazelnut cake (€7) sounds lovely on the page but in reality it’s a touch dry and powdery, rather than moist and nutty. The accompanying lemon ice cream, made in-house, is very good, however.
The staff are friendly, and the space itself is smart and comfortably decked out, with lots of dark woods, marble surfaces and a running theme of dark green. When we go exploring downstairs to have a look at the blazing pizza oven, we get a friendly smile from their Pizzaiolo. When Cirillo himself picks up our desserts plates and spots that they’re largely untouched, he strikes them off our bill after taking our feedback on them very graciously. Our bill, which includes an Azzuro cocktail (€8), a White Hag IPA (€6), and two San Pellegrino lemonades (€4) and some San Pellegrino sparkling water (€2.75), comes to €66.75.
I visited within the first fortnight of Cirillo’s opening their doors, and caught a few early day hiccups. Cirillo’s have nailed the pizza and the place, and just need to iron out a few of those opening month jitters, particularly by rethinking their desserts. Hot on the heels of the opening of Gaillot & Gray, it looks like we have another smart new pizzeria on our city’s streets.
140 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2
Words: Aoife McElwain
Photos: Killian Broderick