When did pizza first arrive in Dublin?
One of the first mentions in the newspapers was Monica Sheridan writing in The Irish Times on 7 April 1956. Explaining to her readers that pizza was “a sort of open tart made with tomatoes and cheese on a base of yeast dough”, she described it as becoming “frightfully fashionable all over Europe”. Sherdian doesn’t make any reference to any restaurants in Ireland where you could get pizza. However in Italy, she wrote:
It is sold (and very cheaply, too) in little restaurants known as pizzerie, where they have special open ovens. The pizze are prepared and cooked before your eyes, and a very appetising sight it is. They are eaten piping hot, at a sort of quick-lunch counter, or you can take your pizza with you and gnaw it on a bench.
In The Irish Times on 20 July 1959, Moira Molony offered advice on ‘Giving a Party On a Shoestring”. She described pizzas as “absolutely scrumptious, but learning how to make the wafer thin pastry requires a practised hand”. Smartly, she advises readers to try “the concoction first on your family”.
A year later, the same paper reported on a “very gay reception” held by the Italian Ambassador at Lucan House (described as “the most beautiful embassy in Dublin”). At this soirée “Pizza, washed down with Ovrieto, was consumed in great quantities”.
So while a certain layer of Irish people may have been aware of Pizza in the 1950s it wasn’t until the mid 1960s (as far as I can work out) that Italian restaurants started to offer it on their menu.
A restaurant called Paycock at 32 Dawson Street offered the dish in January 1965 (Irish Press) with Bernardo’s at 19 Lincoln Place offering “pizza napoletana” by March 1967 (Irish Times). The legendary Coffee Inn who operated from South Anne Street from 1954 – 1995 had pizza on the menu by the 1960s.
By a the mid 1970s and early 1980s, a lot of Dublin’s American style restaurants started to offer it on their menus. Places like TJs Pizzera on Lower Grafton Street and Georgian Fare at 14 Lower Baggot Street.
Not forgetting Murph’s Gasworks Cafe at 21 Bachelors Walk (1976 – 1985), Thunderbird at 84 Grafton Street (1977 – early 1980s) and Solomon Grundy’s at 21 Suffolk Street (1978 – 1986).
Though now associated as a Take Away, Mizzoni’s opened its first restaurant in Rathgar in 1976.
Flanagan’s at 61 O’Connell Street (1980 – Present) and the Bad Ass Cafe at 9-10 Crown Alley (1983 – Present) are the only two restaurants, who fit that bill, that are still open today.
Pizzaland which opened a branch at 52 Lower O’Connell Street in 1976 and at 82 Grafton Street the following year should also be mentioned at this point. They were part of a UK chain of pizza restaurants which was wound down in the mid 1990s.
The Chicago Pizza Pie Company, on Stephens Green where TGI Friday’s is now, was also a popular spot in the 1980s.
Italian-run places also started to offer pizza in this period. Some of the ones that have come and gone include The Pizzeria at 12 St. Andrews Street (early 1970s), La Caprice at 12 St. Andrews Street (1976-?), Pizzeria Italia at 23 Temple Bar (1986 – 1996), Chew ‘n’ Chat at 112 Ranelagh (c. 1987 – 2007) Da Vinceno’s at 133 Upper Leeson Street (1988 – 2011) and Da Pino at 38-40 Parliament Street (1993 – 2010).
Of those still operating, Pizza Stop at Chatham Lane can definitely be described as the oldest operating Italian pizzeria in Dublin City having being on the go since 1982.
Writing in the Irish Press on 12 Jan 1989 critic Ruth Tooth described their experience:
We loved the atmosphere… The smell of garlic hits you in the minute you walk in the door. The kitchen is visible to all. It is clearly very popular and the business and bustle of the place makes for warmth and feeling of being totally at home.
Tooth’s guest described his pizza (medium Margherita for £2.95) as “one of the best he has ever eaten”.
The three of us from Come Here To Me! and two close friends had a meal there a few weeks ago. All five of us were greatly impressed with the quality of the food. Four starters, five pizzas, nine beers and four expressos came in at €149.
The Independent Pizza Company at 28 Lower Drumcondra Road wasn’t far behind, openings its doors in 1984. They continue to receive glowing reviews.
In August 1987, self-confessed pizza addict Padraig O’Morain went on search for the best pizza in Dublin for The Irish Times. TJs’ pizza was described as “unexciting but nothing wrong with it”, the Pizza Calzoni at Flanagans was “unforgettable” and got the thumbs up, the Bad Ass Cafe was a given a glowing review, Pizzeria Italia was excellent while O’Connell Street’s Pizzaland was of average quality and on the expensive side. You wonder why he didn’t try Pizza Stop or Independent Pizza Company?
The late 1980s and early 1990s saw a rake of pizza places open that are still in business today: Fat Freddy’s on Crow Street, Miller’s Pizza Kitchen at 9-10 Baggot St Lower, Pinheads at 104 South Circular Road (estd. 1989), Ristorante Romano at 12 Capel Street (estd. early 1990s?), South Street Pizza on South Great Georges Street (estd. early 1990s), Little Caesars Pizza at 5 Balfe Street (estd. 1991), Gotham Cafe at 8 Anne Street South (estd. 1993), UK chain Milano at 38 Dame Street (estd. 1995), the Steps of Rome at 1 Chatham Street (estd. 1995) and Cafe Topolis at 37 Parliament Street (estd. mid 1990s?)
The 2000s saw many pizzerias come and go. Some of those that were opened in this decade and that are still open include Ciao Bella Roma at 25 Parliament Street (estd. 2003), Enoteca Langhe in the Italian Quarter (est.d 2003), Bar Italia on Ormond Quay (estd. 2004), Bottega Toffoli at 34 Castle Street (estd. 2005), Taverna in the Italian Quarter (est. 2005) Paulie’s Pizza at 58 Upper Grand Canal Street (estd. 2010), Credo at 19 Montague Street (estd. 2010), Da Mimmo in Fairview (est.d 2010), Al Vesuvio at 73 Mespil Road and Manifesto at 208 Rathmines Road Lower.
Though really takeaways, Di Fontaines at 22 Parliament Street (estd. 2011 but based in Crow Alley for many years before that) and Ray’s Pizza at 2 Fownes Street deserve a mention.
2013 is the year I hope to try all the (great) pizzerias that I haven’t visited yet.
Questions for readers:
What was your first experiences of eating pizza in Dublin?
What’s your favourite pizzeria at the moment?