Atmosphere is a quality that can’t be contrived. Some restaurants just have it, oozing out of every nook and cranny, and Da Mimmo’s has it in spades. It’s a happy restaurant. From where I sit over dinner on a Thursday evening, I look into a crowded restaurant full of groups of friends sharing slices of pizza, couples sharing bowls of pasta and families catching up over goblets of tiramisu. The open kitchen is a jovial place, too. The kitchen crew smile and joke in Italian to each other, as they sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan and tear basil leaves, while a delivery guy picks up boxes of pizza to be transported to those lucky enough to live within Da Mimmo’s home-delivery route.
Up until two months ago, you would have been able to observe Da Mimmo’s magic ambiance at an even closer vantage point. The business recently moved from a tiny space on the same block of North Strand Road to their new larger premises. It’s a much bigger space, which has allowed them to bring in a new wood-fired oven from Italy and expand their menu offering. The original Da Mimmo’s is still open for take-aways and daytime coffees, but in the evening the new space takes over. The décor is warm and modern, with prints by local artists such as the Homebound series of 1916 leaders and Jando Design’s Dublin Town prints.
Da Mimmo’s is co-owned by Tino Fusciardi and his wife Brigid, and the smaller premises has been in his family since his parents bought it in 1960, for £4,000 punts. Four years earlier, his parents had emigrated to Dublin from Casalattico, a small village between Rome and Naples, where a significant number of Irish-Italians can trace their heritage to, including the Macari family. “In those days,” explains Tino, “it was all through contacts. My auntie came to Dublin first, and then my father and mother followed once she had settled here.”
Tino and his brother were born in Dublin but in 1975, the Fusciardis moved back to Italy, leasing the fish and chip shop to another Italian family. Tino maintained close ties to Dublin, visiting his aunt and cousins on holidays and moved back permanently in the early ’90s. In 2010, Tino took over the fish and chips shop that his father had opened 40 years earlier, and reopened it as an Italian restaurant called Da Mimmo’s.
The move to the larger space next door has made things easier for the team. “This space is designed to be a kitchen, while our last premises was designed to be a chipper,” Tino says, highlighting the importance of design at work. In the kitchen, there is a chef from Sicily and a chef from Naples. Their suppliers include 100% Italy, a wholesale company who specialise in Italian produce such as fresh truffles and buffalo mozzarella, Parma ham and salamis.
The menu is straightforward Italian, faithfully featuring old favourites. A starter of tomato bruschetta (€6) is a generous plateful of toasted bread piled high with beautifully seasoned tomatoes, fearlessly laced with garlic, and plenty of basil. A piping hot portion of melanzana parmigiana (€9) is hefty and, if paired with a salad, it would be a generous main course. It’s such a classic comfort dish, and it’s perfectly executed here at Da Mimmo’s. The aubergines are soft and the cheese is molten, and the tomato sauce that brings it all together is scrumptious.
The pizza menu is a lengthy read of traditional authenticity, with a few added surprises such as the Porchetta Pizza (€15), topped with slow-cooked pork, roasted potatoes, red peppers and rosemary, or the Mafioso (€14), featuring Italian sausage, friarelli greens and ricotta. Our choice is the Capricciosa (€14), a salty number where ham and wild mushrooms meets artichokes and olives, sprinkled delicately with dried oregano. The dough is crispy and springy, strong enough to hold the weight of the delicious toppings. It’s excellent. A side of caper mayo (€2) is the only aspect of the evening that I’m not mad about. It’s more of a wholegrain mustard mayo, and I strain my eyes trying to spot the capers in the mix, to no avail.
There’s a pasta menu, too, and I can’t resist the spaghetti vongole (€15), and Da Mimmo’s do a fine job of recreating the simple magic of this dish. The spaghetti is perfectly al dente, and is made by hand in Da Mimmo’s. Sweet clams mingle with a tomato sauce, with the careful and restrained amount of fresh red chillis added the perfect amount of heat.
Dessert is a classic tiramisu (€5.95) served in a glass goblet, to give the eater a good view of the layers of lady’s finger biscuits, fluffy mascarpone meringue, cocoa powder and coffee. The coffee hasn’t been over-sweetened, which is a good thing, and a mouthful of all layers is well balanced and simply delicious.
Our server, Julie, is an absolute star and makes us feel welcome throughout our meal. The total bill, which also include a couple of glasses of the house red, came to €61.75. It’s a bargain for our time spent in the company of such a cheerful, contented restaurant. The new pizza joints surfacing around the city would do well to book a research visit to this northside gem.
148 North Strand Road, Dublin 3
Words: Aoife McElwain
Photos: Killian Broderick