Words: Emily Mullen
I moved to Dublin 8 in the middle of a level five pandemic. Naturally, there is nothing else for me to do but go for walks, and eat and drink shit within my area. Join me as I exhaust the place one latte, takeaway beer, slice of pizza at a time.
Few food items can give as much comfort as a pizza. The circular mass of dough, tomato and cheese is self-contained, complete. Each box holds a lunch, a dinner, a stomach liner, capable of shutting any ravenous mouth up with a flop up of the cardboard box.
Pizzas have changed over the last decade, Summers spent pouring over Dominos adverts searching for a reasonable offer, before settling for the more affordable Four Star Pizza have changed. Then we went for quantity, the most amount of dough, of toppings and of accompanying sauce, to us, equated to a superior pizza. Back then, pizzas meant comfort, waking up stinking after the night before, your body craving water and minerals and instead shoving it with stuffed crusts and lashings of reeking garlic sauce. This transformed your stomach from quivering emptiness into a lumpen solidly rock-like form. Huddled around a strewn coffee table, shoulders hunched over cardboard boxes, steam gusting onto downturned faces, sharing sauces.
There’s something communal about pizzas. Not only is it comfort food, but it’s also a celebration food, for those impromptu gatherings (that are now allowed to happen) for the after-parties, the go-to food for snacking on while having a few friends over. Slabs of cardboard boxes that can be laid out anywhere, a plate-free feast bestowed on whoever has an available hand to grab.
The last few years pizzas have stepped up their game, with the number of pizza slingers more than doubling in the Dublin 8 area and around Dublin, several pizzerias have expanded due to demand. The quality has definitely improved too, far from doughy bases, tomato ketchup sauces and synthetic cheddar. PIzzas have become a mainstay in our food vocabulary, nestled in beside smashed burgers and Korean fried chicken on our streets.
Selecting the top pizzas was an easier list to put together than other reviews (most notably the Dublin 8 chip review), mainly because pizza places are fewer, and it’s easier to tell good from bad since the variables are pretty reduced. For the review, I tried margaritas (or as close as I could get) mainly because with a margarita there are very few places to hide. Pizzas can often be carried by their toppings, but with the paired down margarita, there’s nowhere to hide, it’s just base, sauce and cheese. You truly get to know all these flavours intimately with a margarita, since you aren’t picking your way through dollops of nduja, rings of caramelised onion and twenty different parts of a pig. Here are the top five pizzas in Dublin 8:
Themed pizza places aren’t for everyone. The Lab on Thomas Street definitely has a theme, which has pitched itself firmly in the intersection between food and science and set out its stall nice and big. First off there’s the name The Lab, the uniform, which sees employees wearing t-shirts with “Lab Assistant” emblazoned on the back and there are also cocktails in beakers. Their tagline is the “home of sourdough pizza” and pride themselves they should. 48 hours fermenting their dough is time well spent, because the result is a base that’s crunchy on the outside but with the sweet slight tang on the inside. The crust is probably the star of the pizza show, perfectly charred with a crunchy exterior and hollow inside. Plus if you are into crusts, the Labs’ is about double the size of a standard pizza crust. The traditional fior di latte cheese tastes the part and is nicely distributed on the pi. The tomato sauce is a bit of an acquired taste, while it tastes homemade it’s pretty heavy on the herbs which can overpower the cheese a little. It’s definitely one of the more filling pizzas in Dublin 8, since that sourdough base can pack a density that Neapolitans don’t. You can find The Lab on Thomas Street, a healthy-sized margarita will cost you €12. Follow them on Instagram for more information.
Nestled in the horse and cart yard of Iveagh Markets, the Liberties institution that is only recently getting a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from Dinetown. For decades the old market had lain empty, locked in leasehold purgatory until serial entrepreneur Marcus O’Laoire got his hands on the space alongside it. While the market structure itself is still derelict, through the arch you can find yourself in Dinetown (alongside food trucks like Ciao Cannoli, Hanger, Gursha, and Sambo Ambo). Serious Dough is in on the back, with a valoriani pizza oven on a trailer. They’ve done the rounds of food truck locations, starting out in Terenure’s Bushy Park, spending some time in Dún Laoghaire’s The Lighthouse, before landing in Dinetown. They don’t exactly have a margarita on the menu, but their Queen Reetz is as close as possible (just overlook the Parmigiano Reggiano). Serious Dough is proudly Neapolitan, and they wear their pride well. Topped with traditional fior di latte cheese with just a few shavings of the rogue Parmigiano Reggiano which adds a nice tang. Homemade sauce, which tastes like it’s been simmering away on a hob all day. The base is chewy, the crust pillowy, the only criticism would be that it could do with a little more browning or even a blast of char at the crust. You can find Serious Dough in Dinetown off Francis Street, you can get a 12” sort of margarita for €11.50. Follow them on Instagram for more information.
Set in an industrial estate in the outskirts of Inchicore, Rascals Brewery has carved out a nice little spot for itself amongst no less than a hardware store, rock climbing gym, church, Afro-Caribbean and Asian cash and carry. They also share their space with a bakery and a gin distillery. The distillery, called Stillgarden have created a little sensory garden that runs parallel to the concrete entrance to the industrial estate, which you can walk through and cast your arms out Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music style. Once you get to Rascals, there’s a bit of a party atmosphere in the air, the size of the outdoor area coupled with the vast array of Rascals pints, cans and mini-kegs available also helps. The pizza menu is made up of probably some of the best menu titles on the go, the Portobello Plaza, The Long Mile Rhodes, and Fungi the Dolphin’s Barn are particular faves. The titles were lost on me as I went for my now usual margarita or as Rascals call it after the Inchicore institution, The Saints. It arrives on a reusable silver tray, lashed with fresh basil that’s wilting before your eyes because of the temperature of the pizza it’s been placed on. Even though your eating a pizza in the middle of an industrial estate in Inchicore, there is a definite bang of New York-style pizza from it. It could be down to the cheese, which is nice and stringy and comforting. The base is light, with some of the biggest bubbles I’ve seen on a pizza outside of Italy. It’s a complex base, which cracks nicely but also gives you just the right amount of chew. You can tell it’s been made fresh as a daisy because the toppings aren’t sogging up the base one bit. The sauce is liberally applied without being too much, the only criticism would be that there is a slight passata taste off it. It’s definitely one of the lighter pizzas on this list, the type of pizza that you could order even if you weren’t really that hungry and still manage to finish. As a concept, Rascals have definitely pulled it off, a brewery that serves really good pizzas what’s not to like? You can find Rascal’s in Goldenbridge Industrial Estate, Inchicore, a decently sized margarita will cost you €12. Follow them on Instagram for more information.
Toni’s Takeaway is known for a lot of good things, chips, slaw and pizzas. The chipper on Inchicore’s Emmet Road has been slapping dough into shape since some of these pizza upstarts have been in nappies. The chipper has a wood-fired oven just visible in the back, with someone constantly manning it, sliding pizzas in and out at a rate of knots. The pizza comes in your typical chipper pizza box, with the happy Italian chef in front of a woodfired oven, but do not be deceived this is not your usual chipper pizza. While it does give you the chipper value for money since you get a healthy 10” for €8 (the cheapest of all the pizzas on this list by far). Toni’s pizza has that Dominos morish aspect to it, which lodges into your brain and makes you crave it. It doesn’t give you that leaden stomach feel after eating it, which makes you consider that you have a gluten allergy, that some takeaway pizzas elicit. It looks sort of like the amazing cartoon pizza that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles used to eat (minus the toppings) with its long, skinny extra cheesy slices. It tastes and smells pretty much like Italian pizza (if memory serves right, it’s been a while, we’ve been living in a pandemic). It’s got that chewy, unctuous stringy mozzarella on top and plenty of it. There’s a crispiness to the crust with a lovely puffing to it from the bubbles and blisters of the dough, while the base is soft, springy and not one bit stodgy. You can tell that it’s been handmade, from the way its sliced to the reverberations of the woodsmoke hitting the base. The only criticism would be the sauce was a bit paint by numbers, it had the consistency of a passata and really didn’t have much taste and it didn’t really bring much. One of the benefits of getting an unreal pizza from a chipper is that you can have a hefty tub of garlic sauce with it. You can find Toni’s on Inchicore’s Emmett Road, a pretty hefty 10” pizza will set you back €8. Visit Toni’s website for more information.
The team at Coke Lane Pizza have come a long way from slinging pizzas in a corrugated shed alongside Smithfield’s Frank Ryan’s on Coke Lane. They branched out of Smithfield into Dublin 8 a couple of years ago, installing themselves into Lucky’s on Meath Street and then before the lockdown into the newly launched The Circular in Rialto. In that time they’ve kept the menu pretty consistent, their menu name-checking the likes of Italian-American gangster Charles “Lucky” Luciano, French criminologist Edmond Locard, the even the Ponte di Rialto bridge in Venice. The team sling Neapolitans, and as your mam might say, “you could close your eyes and be in Italy” while taking a bite of the slice. They use a proper tomato base loaded with basil and properly seasoned. The crust is both pillowy and charred the wood-fired way. Coke Lane Pizza have name-checked some pretty OG suppliers, with their fior di latte cheese coming in from Toonsbridge (none of your aul watery Lidl mozzarella balls now). Coke Lane don’t crowd your palate with too many toppings, there’s a confidence there that their base can carry its own. The only criticism is the size, it’s a little on the small end of things, but if that’s the price I’m paying for quality, I’ll send Coke Lane Pizza all my money. They are morish to the extreme, you could easily eat two back to back, although maybe consult with your doctor before you do that. A small enough margarita will cost you €11, you can find Coke Lane Pizza in Rialto’s The Circular and in Lucky’s on Meath Street. Follow Coke Lane Pizza on Instagram for more information.
Elsewhere on District: Signature Dish, Mister S’s Burnt End Rendang Spring Rolls