Ever since man first started to live in cities, the basic urban design has been the same. The centre was for commerce and trade and the outer areas were residential.
If you walk around Pompeii, it all looks very familiar; the layout is exactly as it is in cities today.
So the place to find restaurants is in the centres.
There is an exception — if the town or city is large enough, you get smaller, out-of-town mini-centres in the residential areas. When restaurants are in places like this, they’re called ‘local restaurants’.
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a local restaurant, so this week, I set off with my son Rocco to review one in Sandyford.
If you’re a Dubliner, I’ll bet you’ve heard of the Sandyford Industrial Estate, but you might not have heard of Sandyford Village, which is where we were headed.
Sandyford Village is surrounded by motorways and large new link roads. But once you enter it, you can see at once that it is — as it name suggests — a village.
We were looking for a restaurant called La Dolce Vita, which is above the Sandyford House pub. There was plenty of parking in the pub car park and we found the entrance easily enough, going upstairs to what has clearly been recently renovated.
The dining room itself is comfortable enough, with a mix of tables and semi-circular banquettes. Although we were just two, we got a large table surrounded by one of the banquettes and settled in to read the menu.
It’s a long menu with lots of choices and, as you might have gathered from its name, it’s an Italian restaurant.
It’s been my habit over the years to be quite strict when reviewing restaurants that claim to be Italian, mainly because I’d love to see an attempt to put real Italian food on to a menu in Ireland.
Maybe one day that will happen, but in the meantime what we have are Italian restaurants that produce a cuisine that is a mix of international and distinctly national flavours blended with the Italian original.
The sure sign of this fusion is when you find pineapple on pizzas, cream in the carbonara and pasta dishes with cream and chicken.
But I’m not such a purist that I can’t enjoy dishes that are a fusion — after all, if the dish is cooked well it can still be good, even if it’s not authentic.