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Stoneybatter’s A Fianco is bleedin’ rapido

Italy is a complicated place. It is easy to forget that the peninsula was only officially unified in 1871, and some regions didn’t become fully Italian until the end of the First World War. It remains a fiercely regional country and boasts almost as many wines and cuisines as there are villages.

There are over a thousand grape varieties, hundreds of designated wine regions, over 300 pasta shapes and thousands of local names. Almost every time I go to an Italian wine tasting I encounter either an unfamiliar grape variety or DO wine region, and I have long since given up any hope of learning them all.

On a warm August evening, however, I felt I got a little closer to understanding Calabria, the mountainous region in the toe of Italy. ‘A Fianco’ translates to ‘next to’ for the logical reason that it is next door to its sister restaurant Grano. I reviewed Roberto Mungo’s Grano restaurant here in 2019 and have visited often since, although I have not yet managed to meet Roberto’s Mamma who visits regularly from Calabria to train staff in making fresh Fileja pasta – she has become a local celebrity and is known as Mamma Grano.

A Fianco is more casual than Grano and features a selection of small plates and charcuterie, most of which are typical of what you would find in a similar Vineria in Calabria. The wine list has lots from Calabria but also wines from Sicily, Puglia and Northern Italy – all from small organic producers using indigenous grapes and traditional methods.

It was too warm an evening to sit inside and while I waited for my guest at one of the outdoor tables I sipped on some late harvest Ciro Bianco made from the local Greco grape. Being late harvest this was a rich golden colour not unlike the hazy sunshine settling on the horizon; with a scent of lemon oil and citrus juice and a bitter lemon fruitiness, it coped well with some bitter-sweet wrinkled green and black olives. It was also a nice match for Grano’s nutty crusty bread, especially once it was doused with Calabrian olive oil (made by Roberto on his last visit home).

Frisella Di Farro
Frisella Di Farro

My guest began with a glass of dry Zibibbo (€10) made by a friend of Roberto’s – he only makes a couple of hundred bottles and Roberto gets a small allocation. Zibibbo is the local name for Muscat and the fragrant floral nature of the wine was an equally good match for the olives. Friselle di Farro (€5) is a crusty Puglian bread of the poor made mainly from Spelt flour – its textured crunch offered a pleasing contrast to the sweet baby tomatoes piled on top. 

Marinated Anchovies (€6) had been dressed with olive oil, garlic, parsley and a touch of chilli and tasted sweet and fresh, a world away from any anchovy you have had from a tin. Lardo Toast was topped with thin slices of fresh summer truffle and cost just €5 – the sweet lardo pork fat lifted by the feety earthiness of the truffle (no of course there was no truffle oil – this is a proper restaurant).

Calabrian Mortadella and Sopressato salami, Calabrian blue goat cheese, and a block of perfect Parmigiano Reggiano drizzled with 12 yr balsamic were other highlights. Nduja meatballs were smoky and meaty and a fine match for dark cherry flavoured ‘Brënda’ red made from a blend that included Montepulciano and Calabrian Magliocco.

Tiramisu
Tiramisu

For dessert, we ordered the (compulsory) fluffy complex Tiramisu and a ‘deconstructed’ Sicilian Cannolo with pistachio, dark chocolate and orange zest to offset the sweetened ricotta. We washed these down with a lemon and honey flavoured ‘passito’ Greco Bianco.

A Fianco is a treat, the staff are charming, the food is a perfect foil for the wines, and while we won’t have Calabrian-style sunshine for much longer I promise you will still feel transported even if it’s lashing rain.

The Tab:

Dinner for two with several small plates, a bottle of wine and four wines by the glass cost €134.50 – less greedy people will pay less.

The Verdict:

  • Food: 8.5/10
  • Drink: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Ambiance: 8.5/10
  • Value: 8/10

In a Sentence:

A Fianco is a charming local wine bar specialising in the food and wines of Calabria and Southern Italy and it’s Fantastico Rapido (bleedin’ rapid).


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