Eileen Dunne and Stefano Crescenzi are a dynamic duo on the Dublin Restaurant scene. The pair met when they were both working for the UN in Italy, she on the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and he as an economist specialising in International Co-Operation and Development. Eileen had first moved to Italy aged 17, to study art in Rome. She fell in love with Italy and its food. Roman born Stefano had been brought up with good food, learned from his grandmother - Nonna Valentina. The pair met through work and the common bond of the cuisine of Stefano’s home country. They have travelled together all over Italy, researching the food and wines that have become the key to the authentic Italian experience in their restaurants.
The first Dunne & Crescenzi opened in South Frederick Street in Dublin city centre. It has long provided much appreciated sustenance for the city’s workers and many visitors. The Sandymount premises is, as Eileen describes, ‘very much a village restaurant’, with a busy clientele of mainly permanent residents. ‘It’s amazing how different it is here to South Frederick Street. We have a lot of regulars here and they always tell us what they like and don’t like, which is great because it provides us with the valuable feedback we need to keep our customers happy’, explains Eileen.
Eileen and Stefano spend most days travelling between the restaurants. She looks after front of house and customer service, while Stefano oversees all menus and kitchen operations, and trains new chefs. ‘We have a Sicilian Chef in Sandymount, and I love the way he combines his flavours. He’s very experimental and there is always something different. He also uses a lot of fish, which we get from a well established supplier with own boats in Howth.’, she says. ‘We try to use as much as possible from small producers and suppliers here in Ireland, and we do the same in Italy. We travel regularly to Italy to source new suppliers.’
Interior design at Sandymount follows the ‘house style’. Lots of dark wood furnishings and the familiar wall to wall shelving which houses conscientiously sourced Italian wines, plus Italian olive oils, pastas, and other dry ingredients necessary for Italian cooking, all available to buy to take home. A relaxed friendly atmosphere presides. The day starts early with breakfast from 7.30am weekdays and 9am weekends. Everything from Stefano’s Porridge Italian Style (drowned in Coffee!) – to Irish free range eggs served with accompaniments like Irish Smoked Salmon, Italian bacon, Buffalo Mozzarella or Pan Fried Mushroooms. Lighter bites include Croissants or Bretzel Bakery brown bread with G’s Jams. And of course, coffee, lots of good heady fragrant coffee. A full A la Carte offering at lunch and dinner includes antipasti, brushcetta, salads, pastas, pizzas and risotto runs at lunch with the addition of daily specials – thoroughly explained by the professional and knowledgeable waiting staff. An evening set menu runs for groups of ten or more. Whatever you eat here, you can expect the wine to more than match up. A fine selection from all the big Italian regions, plus some nice surprises, and a very reasonably priced choice of house red and white wines. What’s impressive also is the selection of Italian dessert wines by the glass. Because Italians love dessert wines and this tradition has now been brought to Dublin – finishing a proper Italian feast here in the right way, with a choice from the homemade classic Italian dessert menu and a fine sweet wine to accompany!