It's a cold damp evening but I'm heading to where all will be warmth and good cheer. It's Little Italy's Christmas Event. Based on North King Street, Dublin 7, just behind the Old Jameson Distillery, they caught my eye at the Fallon and Byrne Event with their perfectly crunchy almond biscotti and now I'm off to see more of their super merchandise.
As I arrive I'm welcomed in to a busy bustling atmosphere of shopping and hugging and beautiful looking food everywhere. How did I not know about this place? Providing food and wine to about 100 restaurants and hotels in the Dublin area and further afield, you can also walk in as a retail customer to purchase their lovely produce. They stock everything your little Italian-cooking heart desires and having been shown around by Robyn, bumping into Nana and mummy on the way- it's a family affair here tonight- I work my way around to do a few tastings.
Minini wine distributors were there with tastings. I tried the Valpolicella, light and clean tasting, and the Merlot, round and full flavoured. Minini supply to the restaurant trade but can be bought from the shop. The wine in the shop is very reasonably priced, from €6 up, with 10% discount on a case.
On another table are Lazzaroni Cantuccini, what I was calling biscotti, in almond and chocolate. Lazzaroni is the oldest renowned Italian bakery and confectionery company.
Also out were delicious praline Pernigotti Gianduiotti chocolates.
Working my way around the room I spotted dried porcini funghi, often hard to get hold of, in a fair size bag for €4.75. On the shelves are beautiful Sapori gift boxes of of dessert wine and almond cantuccini- a present anyone would be happy to receive. the cantuccini come in various size boxes and bags and there are tins and big bags of amaretti biscuits, both good to buy for over Christmas. Robyn explains to me that their Christmas stock arrives late October/early November.
Tasting some lovely crunchy nutty nougat, Mandorlato by Pernigotti is the most traditional it is explained to me, I also spotted some lovely big bags of very good priced bread sticks-always useful at parties- these were with red onion, con cipolle. Julie Walker of the Traditional Cheese Company (www.tradionalcheese.ie) was there serving Galbani mini mozzarella balls, the most preferred brand in Italy, with sundried tomatoes-delicious, and creamy goat cheese with chorizo.
Over at the 'Italicatessen' counter there was lovely Levoni Salsiccia Mantovana Italian sausage sizzling away to be tasted, full and meaty, and there were also tasters of cheese and black pepper and with chilli and also a lovely smoked cheese from Pughlia, all served with a tray of 'Mother-in-Law's-Tongue' bread crackers.
Stocking all the speciality flours: semola, polenta and instant yeast for Italian baking/pizza etc, Il Valentino Bakery and Cafe based at Grand Canal Harbour (www.ilvalentino.ie) had a beautiful array of breads. I tasted a lovely light and crunchy ciabatta with some gorgeous chestnut honey and also with the Italian chocolate paste Nero Gianduia, definitely one for the grown-ups!
Little Italy also makes up lovely Christmas hampers starting at €25. After a thoroughly lovely time spent tasting cheeses, biscuits, breads and wine it was unfortunately time to leave. Heading back into the cold Dublin streets to the Luas, I told myself I would definitely be back.
Address: 139 North King Street, Dublin 7
With thanks to the hospitality of Robyn Keleghan.