Living In Magazine - July 2009

La Taverna Armento - La Dolce Vita

As I have lived in Italy for six months, and experienced the food. I was very much looking forward to dining at La Taverna Armento. The restaurant, which is situated in the grounds of the beautiful BrookLodge & Wells Spa, in Macreddin Village, Co. Wicklow is billed as an authentic Southern Italian tavern that sources its ingredients, many of then organic, from the area around the village from which it takes its name.

The location is a bit out of the way if you’re coming from Dublin, but it’s a pleasant drive, especially on a summer evening. There is lots of parking and as you walk towards La Taverna Armento restaurant the surroundings are so peaceful with just the sound of the birds singing in the trees and wonderful views of the hills in the distance.

Once you’re inside the restaurant, the smell of Italian food fills the air. Sri, the maitre d’, greeted us as we walked in and brought us to our table: which was in the larger of the restaurant’s two rooms. There was a very welcoming atmosphere and with the buzz of a happy conversation in the background, it felt rather like dining in an Italian home.

Sri went through the menu with us explaining each course. There was only one starter to share- more on this later- and a choice of 13 main courses, which range from typical Italian pizza to oyster mushrooms and spaghetti dished. We both ordered our food and the wine, and while waiting for it to arrive, we were brought some bread to nibble on. I was glad to see you’re offered a choice of butter or, my favourite, typical Italian olive oil to accompany the bread. What more, this was the real olive oil that I remembered from my time in Italy, so I probably had a bit more of the beautiful fresh bread topped with olive oil than I should have.

We chose the house red, which was a bottle of Trinarcia Rosso Silicia, from a huge selection of reasonably priced wines. Poured into small glasses, Italian style, it was perfect and complemented the food well. So, about that starter- you don’t really need to worry about the lack of choice, as what arrives is a large platter of grilled vegetables, together with cured meats, olives and mozzarella all from Armento village in Southern Italy. There was plenty to choose from on the platter, including Parma ham, anchovies, pickled mushrooms, and spiced peppers. Sri kindly went through the platter and explained what was in it, also mentioning that it was all fresh, organic produce.

When we had finished, our lovely waitress Ilona asked if we were ready for our main course, or would we like a few minutes? We decided to wait a little bit and enjoy the wine and atmosphere - I really loved the fact we weren’t rushed and didn’t feel like we had to eat and be gone quickly for the next guests.

I ordered the Penne Pasta with Beans, Spicy Sausage and Garlic Croutons, and when it did arrive, I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. It was cooked to perfection, the spicy sausage was to die for, and the penne sauce had that rich Italian flavour that I had been longing for, bringing back happy memories of the fabulous food that I had experienced during my stay in Italy.

My husband choose the Homemade Meatballs and, like my main course, the serving was generous, in fact, I didn’t think that we would eat everything on our plates, but the taste was too good to ignore, there is also a choice of side dished, including mixed leaf salad, potatoes, tomato and mozzarella salad and garlic bread.

After eating our huge main courses, we really didn’t fancy a dessert, but, tempted by a little look at the dessert menu, we eventually decided to sample a few, the restaurant does its own scrummy Tiramisu, which just melts in your mouth. We also tried Panna Cotta with Berry Compote, which was delicious too, but I have to say my favourite was the chocolate and Vanilla Semifreddo – words cannot do it justice, and I happily finished it off.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at La Taverna Armento, and the stunning setting and delicious, authentic Italian food combined to make the trip out to Wicklow well worth it.