Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: George Voronov & Instagram
After much racking of brains, trawling the internet and bleeding heart email threads, we are proud to present CHAR’s Ultimate Food Guide. A guide that cuts through the mire of food and drink reviews made by every Tweedledee, with opposable thumbs and access to WiFi.
Pizza and Peroni go perfectly together, so our friends at Peroni Nastro Azzurro very kindly sponsored the pizza round of Ultimate Food Guide. Few food items can give as much comfort as a pizza. The circular mass of dough, tomato and cheese is self-contained and complete. A slice of pizza can be held up as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. That’s why Pizza is also one of the most competitive categories in this year’s Ultimate Food Guide.
We are in the middle of the second coming of pizza in Dublin. Last year Holly Dalton said there had been “a pizza renaissance in Dublin”. This year it went one step further. With the arrival of Bambino and Vice, Dublin pivoted away from the reliable, more Italian model and made room for the chonky innovators with their sesame crusts and potato slices.
Everyone loves pizza and has an opinion on what makes a good one. The Irish public knows what good pizza is and isn’t afraid to go for it. At the same time, the classic debates of thick v thin crust, Pineapple or normal, rage on. There have never been as many pizza options available to us.
There are some people out there for whom pizza is just a vehicle; for garlic dip. For some, the crust is the most critical aspect.
The Gastro Gays were on that train saying, “What makes a great pizza is the base. Obviously, that’s the starting point of great pizza”. Others love an excellent saucy pie. For Richie, its “all about the sauce”.
There were a record number of pizza places included in this list, making it incredibly difficult to whittle it down to just ten, but thanks to our crack system (full breakdown here), this was made possible. If your favourite didn’t make the top ten then take it up with the experts. All we did was crunch the numbers.
A Forest Avenue project, Little Forest is an Italian-inspired restaurant in Blackrock. The Pizza world is fickle; last year’s number one has some stiff competition this year. When original head chef Reggie White departied for Bambino, it was bound to be a different year for them. However, they have maintained a high quality ever since. It’s Sommelier Tara Deery’s favourite, with her commenting that “Little Forrest definitely do in the best pizza. It’s out of this world.”
The Pizza is Neopolitan style, with classic Italian variations populating the menu. They make their dough with the help of a sourdough starter made by Scéal Bakery. The dough is then naturally leavened for 48 hours before being fired into a wood-fired oven. It leopard prints the crust like it were a haut couture jacket at Milan Fashion Week.
Little Forrest maintains exceptional quality while being excellent value. The most expensive pie caps out at seventeen euros.
Location: Main Street, Blackrock
Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday, 17:00-21:00
Tino Fusciardi opened Da Mimmo on the northside in 2010; it began life as a chipper before metamorphosing into Sapori D Italia in 2010 before reaching its final form as the much-loved Da Mimmo. Excellent pizza is central to its offering, but it does a whole array of Italian food. It’s the great big humdinger of a wood-fired oven that catches the eye and heart of all true pizza lovers.
Rob from Big Fan named these lads as a destination pizza worth going out of your way for. Mick O’Connell, the Master of Wine behind Neighbourhood Wine, said he still dreams of their pizza though he is now gluten-free.
Location: 48 N Strand Rd, North Dock, Dublin, D03 FK52
Opening times: Every day from 12:00 – 22:00
Vice are the new folks on the block in the pizza game. (Although not much longer, there are whispers of a new pizza place fermenting on the ground). They hit the ground running when they opened in September and have already amassed a hoard of devotees, including an excessive amount of Trinity News journalists and industry experts.
Kevin, the dedicated Chef behind Nomo, recalled ordering a whole heap of pizzas from Vice for his staff when they opened and being genuinely thrilled by the sesame crust. Tara Deery also name-dropped and complemented their wine selection, while Big Fan’s Rob said it was on his list to hit up. When CHAR went earlier this year, it was the Sweet Meats ‘za that had us fighting over who got the last slice, and that trend seems to have continued with most of their following gramming it devoutly.
It’s not just the pizza that has them a seemingly overnight success; however, it’s the heart of the staff Tara Deery said, “Bobby is just so sound like I would go there, just for Bobby because he’s such a sound head.” From my experience, her assessment is right on the money, and I know the office would back me up on that.
Location: 5 Merrion Street Lower, Dublin, D02 DR94
Opening times: Open every day from 12:00 to 22:00 or 22:30 on Fridays and Saturdays
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In another September opening, Kodiak edged out Vice by just one point. The latest spot from the team behind Caribou and Bonobo has brought their signature flare to what is probably the most well-designed pub in the city. They have separated themselves from DPC but established themselves here as a pizza producer of the proper calibre.
There are two pizzas on the menu that you can’t get at Bonobo. They’re signature white pizzas that are both rich and refreshing. The first, the veggie one, truffle and orange zest, is a dance of sweet and salty with an excellent balance of truffle to honey. The Mortadella & Pistachio is a winner for the more carnivorous among us.
Tara Deery said, “The white pizza in Kodiak, just off the charts. Amazing. Very, very good over there”. This is high praise when you consider white pizzas are usually a much harder sell.
Location: 304 Rathmines Rd Lower, Rathmines, Dublin, D06 W3Y1
Opening times: Every day from 17:00 – 00:00
The OG. The Stalwart. The first street slice you ever ate. This pizza slice joint is still a hot ticket despite competition stiffening every year. Thick dough, juicy toppings, massive portions, good dips, banging three am tunes. What more could you want? Russell from Gastro Gays said it best, “I love Di Fontaine’s. It’s the original larger-than-life slice”. ‘Nuff said.
Location: 22 Parliament St, Temple Bar, Dublin, D02 NF24
Opening times: Open every day from 12:00 to 23:00 or 02:30 on Fridays and Saturdays
Coke Lane established themselves from the get-go as renegades of the pizza scene. they set up shop in a lane out the back of one of Dublin’s best-loved pubs racking up za after za for the hungry people of Dublin 7. They managed to establish themselves as a coveted pizza experience early by churning out perfect individually-sized sourdough pizzas while having a laugh amongst themselves and their customers.
If you’re heading for the first time, Try the Frankie, named after the Coke Lane beagle. Or the Magnum Pi with glazed ham-hock and pineapple flambéed in Teeling’s whiskey. If you’re pineapple-on-pizza-inclined.
They game-changed the gluten-free pizza board in Dublin when they came out with their own recipe. It’s a hot pick for both of our Gluten Free experts, Mick and Tara Gartlan. The Gastro Gays, we’re both uber Coke Lane fans, as was Rob from Big Fan. Holly Dalton picked Coke Lane as one of the pizza picks she “loves most.”
Location: The Circular, Luckys, South Paw Temple Bar
Opening times: See their website for the full lowdown on various times
Pi on Dublin’s George’s Street is a fully formed pizza juggernaut. It feels like it birthed itself fully formed after some sort of lightning speed incubation period somewhere cooler, like Williamsburg in Brooklyn. But Pi is fully Irish and is the ancestral home of the Reggie White pizza cult. This is not a pizza restaurant that does salads or sides. They just do pizzas, 12-inch pizzas. And they do them incredibly well.
Both Alex and Richie of Bahay had been there recently calling the pizzas “great” and “amazing” respectively. Considering Richie is an absolute carnivore and Alex is a devout pesce-veggie this is saying something. Both placed Pi at the top end of their lists
Their puffed-up crusts dotted with charred blisters were also on the lips of Tara Deery and Rob Hughs. With the latter calling it “award-winning pizza.” Tara was more verbose and credited them for pushing Toonsbridge cheese and other local Irish ingredients before rounding off by saying, “it’s actually just class.”
Location: Castle House, 10, 73 – 83 South Great George’s Street, Dublin
Opening times: From 12:00 to 22:00 every day or 22:30 on weekends.
Dublin Pizza Company rose to fame back in 2016 when it first opened on Aungier Street. The company started after an R&D trip to Naples that involved learning the art of pizza making. The DPC team then built a polytunnel themselves in order to achieve the freshest za possible.
The Gastro Gays were straight off the bat with this one saying, “Definitely Dublin Pizza Co. It has been a staple for several years. Just really, really consistent. Cool having it as a hatch. It’s always popular. It’s a bit of theatre, too, because you can see inside the hatch.” DPC are another team that has great provenance in terms of the producers and the ingredients they use. Always populating their menu with some of Ireland’s most creative producers.
Rob cited their house special as his signature pizza order, while Holly Dalton gushed effusively about how they “took over Dublin.” Tara Deery summed it up best, however, when she said, “you can never really go wrong with a DPC.”
Location: 32 Aungier Street,
Opening times: From 12:00 to 22:00 Monday to Wednesday, till. 01:30 on Thursdays and Sundays, and till 04:00 Fridays and Saturdays
Surprisingly absolutely no one who has ever been there, Manifesto is firmly top of the list. It would be patronising to call Manifesto a pizza place. It’s genuinely much more than that. It is the kind of Italian you’d take a friend from Italy to just to prove that the Irish interpretation of Italian cuisine is much better than they had been led to believe.
Mick O’Connell unabashedly named them top of his list name dropping his “pal Andy” who is, in fact, the pizza guru behind Manifesto. He also credits their phenomenal wine list as unpretentious demeanour as adding to their finesse. Two things that would entire many a pizza fan, yours truly included.
Kevin from Nomo talked about Manifesto with the respect and reverence of a chef who really apricates the work of another. He called it “killer” and said that “they won like the National Pizza Championships a couple of years in a row”, which you can taste in their deceptively light pizzas. Technically it was owner/chef Lucio Paduano whose pizzas have won gold at the Pizza World Championships.
If you’re going for the first time try the U2 Irish Flag pizza, loaded with gold organic cherry tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola and friarielli or broccoli rabe, or go full on old-school and grab the Don Corleone, with mozzarella, fennel pork sausage, friarielli and basil.
Location: 208 Rathmines Rd Lower, Rathmines, Dublin, D06 K466
Opening times: Open seven days from 17:00 – 22:00
Bambino is the underdog no one saw coming who went on to actually smash it into smithereens. The latest venture from Shane Windrim and Nick DiMaio(of Token) with consulting hand Reggie White was always going to be successful but no one, I doubt even themselves, could have. predicted how fast Bambino would become the Sliceries to rule them all.
Reggie has arguably had the biggest impact on Dublin pizza ever and was last year’s number one. This year all the credit goes to Shane, however. Reggie said, ” Shane was my first hire in Pi and was by my side at the coalface for my entire time there; he then came and worked with me in Little Forrest. Any success I’ve had, Shane has been there making me look good”. It’s heartening to see Irish food lifting each other up and crediting each other’s work as foundational to their growth.
The pizza itself is cooked in a huge New York-style three-deck electric oven which gives a very different bake to the wood-fired oven of others. The quality of ingredients used is top-notch, including Toonsbridge fior de latte, Andarl Farm pork, and McNally’s Farm organic greens.
The Gastro Gays lamented they missed the cult phenomenon that was the potato slice and said, “Everything is great; it’s impossible to pick a favourite,” though they have been known to drive home from Dublin to Drogheda full Bambino pizzas in order to try work it out.
It was top of the list for Alex, Holly, Gillian from Hen’s Teeth, Rob from Big Fan as well as Richie from Bahay and both Gastro Gays. In what was the biggest win majority of the competition bar one. It was a slam dunk of a home run. So if you haven’t tried it yet, you gotta get on it.
Location: 37 Stephen Street Lower, Dublin, D02 T862
Opening times: Every day from 12:00 – 23:00
Elsewhere on CHAR: Ultimate Food Guide – Burgers