I feel as if I’m in New York, somewhere that the characters from Friends or Girls would call into on their way to work to grab a quick coffee. But I’m not in New York – I’m in Sutton, and Minetta deli, owned and run by sisters Deboragh and Nicola Hughes, is just across the way from a decidedly un-retro Supervalu. “We took loads of ideas from New York,” says Deboragh. “At one stage we thought we were going to call ourselves Pastiche.”
Located just a five minute walk from Sutton DART station, Minetta is a retro-feeling Italian/NYC mashup that could not be more welcoming. I’m not the only one here to chat with Deboragh and Nicola; customers call in to chat about everything from their dentist appointments to their kids, with Deboragh and Nicola bringing up the coffee and sandwiches as they chat. “It’s so small around here but we grew up around here so we know absolutely everybody.” says Deboragh. “Nicola knows everybody’s names, their childrens’ names, their dogs’ names – everything!”
The locally roasted coffee beans in my Americano are among the best I’ve tasted, and the tiny space available to showcase is filled to capacity with everything from salads to tiramisu, all made in-house with jazz music playing in the background. Deboragh’s mother-in-law to be makes the elderflower cordial that’s become so popular among customers. The coffee beans are from Nick’s Coffee Company in Ranelagh. And the Hughes’ themselves grew up in Sutton, saying that they’re lucky they have so much family around them. “We’ve got handmade, local, personal, seasonal vibe going on, and we focus on the personal in particular,” Deboragh says.
There’s a distinctly local and homely feel to Minetta that’s rare to find in the city centre and the pair are only getting started. Having set up the café following job losses just over a year ago, it only goes to show that the old adage of “what doesn’t kill you” rings true. “I lost my job and her restaurant closed up around the same time, so we joined forces and being sisters and best friends, it seemed to be the natural progression,” says Nicola. “It’s been absolutely brilliant.”
Things are only getting bigger and better for them, as Minetta intend to expand to add a second location next year in Howth. Though their currently tiny kitchen space doesn’t hold them back from running the café as well as their catering, they’re looking forward to getting to a bigger space for Minetta 2. The new location will host a restaurant and a shop, and the excitement – and the nerves – are palpable. “It’s such a big premises. We’d be able to do all the catering from there. It’s really exciting! I was much more nervous the last time around. This time around, I know we’ve done it before,” says Nicola.
The wide-ranging menu covers sandwiches, pizzas, ready meals, juices, coffees and desserts, and everything is very reasonably priced. Minetta also has plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, as well as tasty superfood and whole food salads for taking care of your health. They use Tartine Organic Bakery sourdough exclusively. “Our shop is so tiny, and we endeavour to make everything ourselves, therefore we have to make each menu choice really count, so we are hugely fussy with suppliers,” says Deboragh. Call in for a coffee and you could easily leave with dinner and dessert for the rest of the week, as well as a chat with Deboragh and Nicola. You won’t get any of that in Starbucks. I take a tiramisu for later and I’m not disappointed – it’s one of the nicest I’ve had.
The visit is well worth my DART trip from the city and Minetta is surprisingly quick and easy to get to. For the coffee alone it’s a must-visit, but the chat with the owners in the retro atmosphere makes it one of the best places in Dublin to drop into for a rest stop. Minetta’s winter opening hours are 8am to 5pm Monday to Thursday, 8am to 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 10am to 4pm on Sunday, and is located at 1 Howth Road, Sutton.
Words: Gráinne Loughran
Photo: Killian Broderick