Paolo Tullio's Review
A pizzeria is by definition a cheap and cheerful affair. All over Italy
they are plentiful, clean, bright and plain. Their purpose is to provide
a simple staple that happens to taste good, but is none the less pretty
plain fare. A pizzeria is a place with no pretensions. Until McDonalds
arrived in Italy, pizzas were regarded as fast food - a quick and simple
meal available when either time or money was short.
Somewhere in the mists of time an inventive cook took some left-over
dough and whatever bits of cheese and meat were available and created
a pizza. There are frescoes in Pompeii depicting what look like pizzas,
so its history is long. It has a pedigree of simplicity; the word, incidentally,
is Italian for 'pie'. Simple as it is, it can be a real treat when done
well and perfectly vile if done badly.
The village in Italy that I call home is famous for two things: a miracle
site dedicated to the Baby Jesus, and Maurizio's pizzeria. I'm not entirely
sure why thousands of people come to the miracle site, but I know why
hundreds come from miles away for Maurizio's pizzas. These are pizzas
as they ought to be: a thin crust made with good dough, fresh top-quality
fillings and the whole lot cooked in a wood-fired brick-domed oven. When
you've tasted a pizza like this you tend to find American-style pizzas
a poor imitation.
I had arranged to meet my son Rocco in the Shelbourne so that we could
go out and sample a Dublin pizza to see how it compared to Maurizio's.
We'd settled on Milano's in Dawson Street as I've been there a few times
and have always enjoyed it. But before I went to meet Rocco, I was at
the Bridge Gallery where my old friend Tom Haran opened his exhibition
of paintings of Saint Patrick's Festival. A few friends there, sipping
wine and looking at the paintings, muttered something about joining us
later for a pizza, but I didn't take it too seriously.
Milano's is busy - very busy. It's one of those places that won't let
you book, so you just turn up and hope for the best. I had naively thought
that by arriving before eight o'clock we'd avoid the rush. Ha. We were
met at the door by the seating manager and were told that it would be
half an hour until we could get a table. I said 'Great, we'll go for drink
and be back in thirty minutes.' She said 'No, you have to wait here.'
I looked around and saw all available waiting-room sofas full. 'Do I have
to stand here for thirty minutes?' I asked. 'If you wait a moment I'll
take you to the other seating area.' she offered.
Milano's is also big. At the back of the large dining-room is the kitchen
where if you're so inclined, you can watch the chefs preparing your pizza.
Beyond this is another waiting area and beyond that again another dining-room.
After a twenty-minute wait we were shown to a table. The menu lists a
long selection of pizzas which range from classical toppings like Capricciosa,
Quattro stagioni and Margherita to Milano's own inventions like Veneziana
and Fiorentina. These last two are trade marks and made me wonder how
you can register an adjective for your exclusive use. The pizzas range
in price from £3.90 to £6.95 so they're pretty good value.
I chose a Capricciosa and Rocco chose the Quattro stagioni, which are
both well-filled pizzas. They also do side-orders of baked dough-balls,
garlic bread, mozzarella and tomato salad or a plain side salad to supplement
The wine list is like me, short and Italian. It's priced very reasonably
and I chose the Frescobaldi Chianti which was listed at £11.95 -
a good wine for the money. I had just decided that no one was going to
join us and allowed the spare chairs at our table to be taken away, when
we were joined by rock-widow Kathy Gilfillan and business seminar organiser
Jane Stephenson. Before long we had four chairs again and the first two
If you're in Italy and you order a pizza the first thing you do is look
at the underneath. This will tell you how it's been cooked. It should
be light brown and crisp, and if it's been cooked in a wood oven it'll
have tiny grains of semolina sticking to the underside. Looking underneath
Milano's pizza I found a crisp well-cooked base that looked and tasted
just as it should. And another thing I liked: the topping of my Capricciosa
was exactly right - not something close to or vaguely reminiscent of the
classical topping. Rocco's quattro stagioni, or four seasons, was just
Then our table of four turned to a table of six, as Tom Haran, flushed
from the success of his exhibition and Chris Rowley, a fellow artist,
came to join us. Although Milano's was incredibly busy, the waiters and
waitresses were helpful and efficient, finding more chairs and getting
the orders of the new arrivals taken quickly. By this time I'd eaten my
pizza and was feeling that all was well with the world. Looking around
me I started to take in my surroundings. The chrome-framed seats with
leather bases were comfortable enough, the black marble-topped tables
were simple and attractive, the walls were decorated with rather good
prints all with an Italian theme: old maps and engravings predominated.
Without looking like an Italian pizzeria it has all the igredients of
simplicity, easy atmosphere and low prices that make a pizzeria work.
It's turnover of customers is testament to that.
None of us had desserts, although one looked interesting. Duomo di bosco
translates literally as cathedral of the woods, which is as innovative
a name for a pudding as I've heard. Fruit salad, chocolate fudge cake,
cheese-cake and ice-cream tempted none of us, but from previous occasions
I know them to be good. We finished our meal instead with coffee and I'm
happy to say you can get a good espresso in Milano's.
The bill for the six of us, including mineral water and two bottles of
wine came to £66.85 which is good value. Although I'm not a fan
of formula foods, I have to say I think Milano's have got the pizza thing