I’ve only ever heard or read good things about Manifesto, an Italian restaurant with an unassuming exterior snuggled beside the new Rathmines cinema. It’s been there for at least ten years, though its current chef/owner Lucio Paduano, who hails from the south of Italy, took over Manifesto in Rathmines in 2009 alongside his business partner Eugenio Mazzitelli.
This incarnation of Manifesto are particularly renowned for their pizza, and not just locally. There’s a pizza called the Mamy on the menu, which was awarded a gold medal at the World Pizza Championships back in 2006. Sounds impressive.
It’s a Wednesday evening when I visit for the first time, and the restaurant isn’t quite full. The atmosphere is a little lacklustre, and the staff are polite but aren’t quite doling out warm Italian welcomes. There is a layer of formality, with linen tablecloths and fancy starters on the menu, that adds a stiffness to the restaurant that I wasn’t expecting.
The starter menu feels over-complicated. There is a dish of profiteroles al nero di seppa cona caprino e cipolle rose di Tropea (€10). It’s a dish of intriguingly black, savoury profiteroles sandwiched with a goat cheese and caramelized onion filling, and a sweet tomato coulis on the side. It’s very moreish but the presentation feels a bit dated, and the dish seems out of place in a pizzeria.
But Manifesto isn’t just a pizzeria, which is where my confusion is coming from. Main courses include classics like the saltimbocca di vitella alla Romana (€20), and there is homemade pasta on offer, too.
Back to the starters, and a bruschetta tricolore (€8) is decent but the bread it’s served on is chewy and doesn’t soak up the classic flavours of tomato, basil and garlic. I had hoped to order the special listed on the menu, a house cured venison prosciutto salad (€10), but I’m told it’s not available when I go to order it. A heads up on its unavailability by our server before I got my hopes up for the dish would have been welcome.
The pizza dough itself is pleasantly springy, and they look beautiful. Their puffed up crusts give way to a slightly sunken valley, the perfect vessel for tasty toppings. There’s a wood-fired oven in the restaurant in full view, looking out onto Rathmines Road. Coeliacs are welcome here, and there’s a gluten-free pizza base on offer for an additional €2. A Don Corleone (€15) is listed on the menu as being awarded Best Pizza in Ireland in 2011, but tonight it disappoints. The Italian sausage is insipid and blobs of creamy ricotta can’t rescue it. On the Don Corleone and the San Gennaro (€16), the green leaf of friarelli, otherwise known as broccoli rabe, is too bitter.
Dessert, a lovely semifreddo all’amaretto (€6), is served on a fanciful wooden board, with blobs and strokes of chocolate and fruit sauces. Its fussiness in presentation distracts from the simplicity of the dessert.
Overall, it’s been an underwhelming visit to a spot I’ve heard high praise of. I was expecting a laid-back, fun pizzeria and instead I got a stilted, grandiose white table-clothed restaurant. Perhaps it was an off night? Or perhaps Manifesto needs a boost of fresh energy, something that an increasing amount of healthy competition coming from elsewhere in the city might encourage.
208 Lower Rathmines Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6
Words: Aoife McElwain
Photos: Killian Broderick