Sean Finnan is impressed by this godfather of authentic Italian restaurants

Stepping into Il Vicoletto on a harsh, cold wintry evening, one could be forgiven for believing that they’ve somehow made their way into a small Italian family household.

The amber glow of the lights and candles that greet those that enter immediately makes you feel right at home. Sketches of Italian life circle the walls of this modest restaurant, while in the background the waiters speak Italian to each other further enhancing the idea that one has just arrived in Italy.

So far all the boxes for a clichéd Italian restaurant are being checked, but what about the food? At first glance the menu does seem expensive. Starters range from €6 to €12, while the mains range from €10 to €24.

The usual Italian pasta dishes appear on the menu, but along with this, the menu does have an impressive seafood selection. As an avid pasta lover, I decided to stay away from it on this occasion and try the speciality Starter and the Fish of the Day.

The starter consisted of a selection of Italian meats and cheese with a small rocket salad presented on a circular brown dish. Each meat was carved delicately and ranged from a spicy flavour to a fresh and savoury extract. The creamy and mild Italian cheese complimented the spicy meat perfectly. This starter certainly was generous, and at one stage I believed I would not be able to make it to the main.

Nevertheless when the main arrived, the aroma of the collection of steamed fish rejuvenated my appetite instantly. The fish was perfectly cooked – tender and soft – and yet still managed to deliver a full-flavoured kick as it hit the tongue. I was a little disappointed with the arrival of my main – it came enclosed in tin foil – but this certainly did not take away from its taste.

I finished my meal with a chocolate cake from the dessert menu which was delightful. Chocolate cake and cream is always a winner, but the texture of this cake – that when split allowed the warm chocolate to ooze out unto the plate – allows it to take pride of place.

If the expensive menu puts you off, the restaurant offers a theatre set price menu from 5pm to 8:30pm that allows you to have a three-course meal for the set price of €20. Il Vicoletto is definitely an authentic Italian restaurant and one that establishes itself away from the other pretenders.

Il Vicoletto, 5 Crowe Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2. Tel (01) 670 8633