Osteria Il Baccaro is a restaurant in Meetinghouse Square in Temple Bar I often pass but very rarely eat in. In fact, the only meal I’ve ever had there was over five years ago; take that as more of a reflection on the location rather than the quality of the cooking because it is hidden off the square meaning it often slips my mind when deciding on somewhere to eat.
The food for the most part avoids the sort of clichéd dishes many Italian restaurants in Dublin serve, there’s no Bolognese, pizza or lasagne, for instance, which makes a nice change given how poorly executed and inauthentic these often are. There seems to be more of a central and southern regional slant to the menu, with little use of butter or cream.
This isn’t to say they don’t serve any common Italian fare – the starter I chose was a minestrone – but that there is a welcome amount of variety on offer. Sadly, the soup itself wasn’t very good: most of the vegetables were bland and out of season and the stock, really the most important component of a simple soup like minestrone, just wasn’t flavoursome enough; the pieces of pasta were also quite undercooked, a good 2-3 minutes shy of al dente, I’d guess.
Thankfully, my main course was a lot better. I ordered porchetta, a Roman street food (though it is served all over Italy now) which normally involves a whole pig being stuffed with garlic, fennel and other herbs and then roasted until the flesh is fork tender. Obviously it wouldn’t be practical for Il Baccaro to replicate this method so instead they slice pork shoulder braised with fennel and lightly fry each side before topping with a rich mushroom sauce. A nice byproduct of frying the pork was that some of the fennel seeds adhering to the side of the cut became toasted and imparted another layer of depth to the dish; the meat offered only the barest resistance to the knife and had a very good flavour with the sauce complementing rather than overpowering it. The only disappointing part was the very unimaginative, and again unseasonal, salad of butterhead lettuce and tomatoes tacked on the plate as an afterthought. Maybe a more appropriate accompaniment would have been some dressed winter leaves like radicchio, chicory or even spinach. Moreover, if you weren’t having a starter you might want to order a side of potatoes to bulk up the meal as there’s nothing starchy included with the secondi.
I also ordered a glass of Chianti to accompany my pork from a wine list featuring glasses starting as low as €4.00 which is definitely the lowest price I have seen in a Temple Bar restaurant for a long time. My red (€5.50) wasn’t the best but was still quite drinkable though given this it may be the cheap wine is cheap for a reason.
Unfortunately because I was in a rush I wouldn’t have had time to order dessert but even then there was nothing that really grabbed my attention on the menu so I probably would have skipped it anyway. Service was pleasant, unintrusive and efficient and the whole meal came to just under €30 including tip.