I’d often walked past Pacino’s on Suffolk Street and dismissed it as yet another restaurant specialising in that strange Irish interpretation of Italian cuisine. It was only upon reading a review by Paolo Tullio last year that I realised I might have been too quick to judge: they have enlisted Luca Mazza, who, a few years ago, was turning out fantastic food in the most unpromising of locations – underneath the Ranalagh Luas stop of all places – as chef patron.
The lunch menu is still a bit confused, with proper Italian dishes being listed alongside chicken wings, burgers and, bizarrely, even some bagels but I guess given its location close to so many offices commercial considerations must take precedence over those of authenticity, especially in a venue with space for over 180 covers.
I was really looking forward to trying the pasta e fagioli having heard so much about Mazza’s version and I wasn’t disappointed: this is billed as a starter but you get a huge bowl that could easily pass as a main. It’s a thinner, more brothy version than I’m used to but none the worse for it, heavy on the meat with plenty of penne, quite a large sized pasta for soup, which gives a satisfying hit of stodge. In fact, it amazes me how many interpretations of this dish there are given how few ingredients it has, we rotate through three types in our house alone and I’ve even posted one of the recipes here before.
We follow with some excellent porcini stuffed tortelloni, the dough rolled properly thin (it’s amazing how many places get this wrong) and, thankfully, the advertised truffle oil sparingly applied as it’s a bully of a flavour, a sledgehammer with none of the subtlety of the real thing – I’d be happy never to see it on another plate again. My pork involtini are described as being stuffed with cheese, which I assumed would be something mild like mozzarella but is actually the far more strident gorgonzola. It just about works but the accompanying mash, sorry, purè di patate, is outstanding and it’s a shame I’m so full from the soup I can’t finish it all. And that nixes any chance of dessert too; I had been eyeing the tiramisu when I first sat down.
Service was exemplary throughout and while it may have had something to do with how early it was in the day (we were the first customers in) I don’t think it’s the only reason. The manager even gave us an umbrella to take with us as we were leaving when he noticed how terrible the rain outside had become. Very impressive.
I’m happy to have been proved wrong about Pacino’s, the menu may be a bit idiosyncratic and there are still a few hybrid Irish-Italian efforts lurking in there but if you choose carefully you’ll eat very well here.