Good Things Come in Small Packages... Il Vicolo, Galway.
In the olden days, my favorite lunch in Galway was a bowl of minestrone soup in Bar Cuba. It was 'proper' minestrone made by a charming and talented Italian native, Tony. And it was the best soup in all the land. But Tony left, Cuba closed and no other minestrone ever lived up to his. Luckily for me the soup is back and better than ever in Il Vicolo where Tony now works, and he is as charming as ever.
Il Vicolo on the corner of Buttermilk Walk beside the 'Auggie' is open for over a year now and has been a firm Galway favourite almost from day one. They serve a good breakfast with their oven-baked eggs in ciabatta being particularly popular and a hearty 'full Italian' worth eating at least once before you die.
The wine list, exclusively Italian, is very well chosen and deserves exploring some evening with a selection of cured meat and cheese plates to keep the wine company. There are more than fifty wines and prosecco, with more than twenty available by the glass. Cocktails and some favourite digestifs are listed on the menu also.
But back to the food. The Minestrone alla Genovese is a true, rustic minestrone. Delicately seasoned, with borlotti beans, vegetables and pasta, a slick of flavour-packed pesto and topped with a generous fist full of parmigiano melting into it. Paired with some fennel seed studded brown bread, it was even better than I remembered it. The spiced pear salad featured my favorite Italian cheese, taleggio, with toasted walnuts was also very good, with a sweet and delicious dressing. Priced at €12 the 'local mixed greens' that it sat on were indeed local in so far as I saw Chef bringing in the bags of salad from the local shop. Cheeky!
My current husband had one of the specials, spaghetti with spicy Italian sausage in a rich tomato sauce. This was one of those 'lick the plate clean' dishes that you don't ever want to end.
For a little something sweet it came down to a choice of two cakes - frangipane with glacé cherries and white chocolate or a flourless chocolate. We ordered the almond cake, mostly because it looked like a giant 'Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewell', but in a good way, and a double espresso which was excellent and arrived promptly. Then we waited for the cake. And waited. And then waited a bit more. When it did come with apologies for its tardiness from the waiter it was one of the nicer almond sponges I have tasted, with just ground almonds and no artificial essence to spoil it.
There is a daily deal of soup, any bruschetta or pannini plus a coffee for €10. Midweek dinner deals are great value with a starter and main course on Tuesday or any pasta and a glass of their lovely vino on Wednesday, both offers set at €15. With specials like 'pan-seared fillet of cod with scallop and chive cream on seakale and garlic polenta' on their evening menu it comes as no surprise that this is the venue of choice for other restaurants' staff parties. The downside is that the restaurant is 'dinky' sized and only seats 26, so getting a seat when it's busy is the equivalent of finding a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar!
Il Vicolo Cafe, Restaurant, Wine Bar. 5 Buttermilk Walk, Galway. Tel: (091) 535 922. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Written for and published in the Galway Advertiser January 24, 2013.