As we noted before on these pages, when on holidays it is often the case that the best and best-value restaurants are often off the beaten track. That does not mean you have to walk miles to find them — a terrible meal on La Rambla in Barcelona or in the shadow of the Vatican’s walls will cost you plenty. A lovely meal a few meters down almost any side street could cost half that. Just a couple of minutes away from the main streets of Galway and just paces from Eyre Square, Osteria Italiana is such a place and one of the city's most authentic Italian eateries.
Green landscapes and enchanting medieval villages characterise the Italian landscape — it is an oasis of good food and relaxation, where the rhythms of life from the mountains to the sea are dictated by nature and the age-old customs of peasant life. The Lazio region in particular is a notable farming centre, where olives, wheat, and grapes are grown, pig farming thrives, and it has long been known as the land of chestnuts.
The landscape is shaped by its volcanic origins, leaving magnificent lakes in extinct craters. The land becomes more hilly up towards the Cimini Mountains, with slopes down to the River Tiber. A sandy shoreline edges this area of the coast with its crystalline waters. This is the landscape that inspires the cooking at Osteria Italiana where chef patron Simone Ippoliti recreates the strong and intense flavors, and simple and genuine dishes, of his native home of Tuscania in the Lazio region.
Still relatively new, chef Simone and his wife Alice opened Osteria Italiana in October last year, and they and their tight knit team were quick to settle in. In what was a former Thai restaurant across from the Franciscan Abbey, outside, the grey and white painted facade gives it the look of a chic café; inside, the dark tables and chairs are arranged in an open, uncluttered, space, the minimalist approach enlivened by a few pops of colour on the upholstery of a long banquette and tall stools at the bar. The staff is predominantly Italian and while Simone has years of experience in the kitchen, Alice has a natural flair for her new role managing a restaurant. There is plenty of elbow room with space to manoeuvre between the tables, not always the case in a city centre restaurant, which makes it a great venue for groups and families, and an ideal place to take the children too — it has a sensible, affordable, children's menu without a chicken nugget or sausage in sight.
The menu caters to the Irish palate so you can expect chips with your lasagna and pineapple on the children's pizza, but it is the simple Italian cuisine that really shines. While the pizza here is excellent, Osteria Italiana has many more strings to its bow — a wide range of starters, salads, an extensive list of pasta dishes, a comprehensive drinks menu, and some enticing desserts. This is real Italian food in a warm atmosphere with great staff and friendly faces. Courses are broken down in the Italian style, the recipes are authentic, and ingredients are the best of Irish with imported specialities where no substitutions will do, mainly specialist cured meats and cheeses.
The team expertly incorporate the fundamentals of regional Italian cuisine with special care and attention to detail so that you can enjoy the best of Italy in this relaxed, cosy, atmosphere. Be sure to try the arancini, a true Italian speciality, and the house-made tiramisu and panna cotta are not to be missed. The wine list has good choice by the glass with many options under €30. There are also well priced cocktails including Italian classics Aperol spritz and bellinis.
The lunch menu offers real value for money with a collection of some of the most popular dishes for €9.95 from Thursday to Monday. Classic lasagna and spaghetti alla Bolognese feature, as do penne all'arrabbiata and 12 inch pizzas with a wide choice of toppings, all available from 12.30pm until 3.30pm. With stylish, unpretentious, food at realistic prices and a nice spot for a coffee during the day, this is an authentic Italian restaurant experience in the heart of Galway city — a new star in the neighborhood restaurant scene. A must for fans of real Italian cuisine.
Osteria Italiana Da Simone, 3 St Francis Street, Galway. Tel 091 564850. Email [email protected].