There are 2 owners of the Dunne and Crescenzi collection - husband and wife duo Stefano and Eileen, whose dream was to bring traditional, quality Italian cuisine to Ireland in order to dispel the burgeoning stereotypes brought about by cheap convenience foods, mass produced for the home market with little resemblance to their original counterparts; they are aided by David Izzo, who joined them to help spread the word about the quality and tastes available from his mother country.
You can find out about each of them from here:
Eileen Dunne Crescenzi
As a child, Eileen Dunne was never a huge fan of food. She described herself as a picky eater - but that all changed when she moved to Rome. Leaving Ireland to study for an Art degree in the Accademia di Belle Arti, Rome at the age of 17 was a huge choice, but one that brought her to be the avid restaurateur we know today.
Falling in love with the sights, smells and sounds of Italy, she began to travel around the country, delving into the culinary culture of each region and exploring their produce: how it had shaped the local diets, the manner in which they used it and combined it and how different products helped create the identity of each region.
While working for the UN in the International Fund for Agricultural Development - a job where she could take pleasure from her business - she encountered Stefano Crescenzi, an economist also working for the UN. He shared her love of food, a passion he had inheritied from his grandmother. Together they travelled the length and breadth of Italy, constantly seeking new delicacies - cheese, wine, fruit and vegetables to sample, building a knowledge of Italian cuisine that would be the foundation upon which the Dunne and Crescenzi collection would be built.
She describes the restaurant business as 'all encompassing':
"Your children grow up in the restaurant, you eat in the restaurant, the restaurant comes on holiday with you, comes to bed with you, the only thing you don’t do is sleep in the restaurant."
Her dedication led to opening of several award winning establishments - which include the names of Bar Italia and L'Officina as well as a second Dunne and Crescenzi - but she maintains the outlook that brought success to the venture in the first place:
"I wouldn't give any of my customers food that I wouldn't give to my own children - the best".
Eileen has also written the acclaimed cookbook "Dunne and Crescenzi: The Menu" featuring favourite dishes from the South Frederick Street restaurant - simple, fresh meals that will delight family and friends. You can read what others have said about the book here.
Stefano Crescenzi hails from Rome, vibrant city of culture, renowned worldwide for its exceptional cuisine. He grew up with a love of food, something nurtured by his grandmother - his Nonna Valentina- a native Roman who lived in Piedmont.
He studied to be an economist at the University of Rome and went on to work with Italian NGO's supplying aid to Africa before joining the UN, specialising in International Co-operation and Development. Here he met Eileen Dunne, a woman who, during her time in Rome, had developed a love and respect for Italian cuisine that matched Stefano's own.
Together, they travelled all over Italy, sourcing the most incredible ingredients and learning the subtle yet important differences that could exist in dishes from region to region and even village to village. His natural inclination towards cooking aided them in this, as did the important lessons he had learned growing up in the kitchens of his family.
"The key is not to lose the memory of your mam or grandmother's cooking - if that goes, then the great food tradition and art of cooking will be lost".
Growing disillusioned with life at the UN and becoming increasingly drawn to working for himself, Stefano and Eileen returned to Dublin in 1995, setting up a small enoteca in Sutton. He worked in the kitchen, preparing bruschetta and salumi for the patrons who came to inspect the impressive wine collection.
He carried this trend through to today, where he inspects the specials of each restaurant every morning to see that they meet the standards he has set - he is still a prominant figure in training a new chef, something that ensures quality control before the cooking even begins.
Partnering with David Izzo, they set-up the La Corte coffee shops (one in the IFSC, another in the Epicurean Food Hall on Lower Liffey Street), bringing 500 years of Italian coffee tradition to Ireland.
"I don't do this because I want an empire. I do this because I like it. I do this for myself. Plus I love food."
David Izzo hails from near St. Peter's in Rome, enjoying a simliar cultural upbringing to Stefano - visiting his grandmother who live in the countryside and learning the traditions of Italian food while he was there. Puglia, in the south of Italy is where this love sprang from, on the farm where he helped the workers pick fresh tomatoes. They used to mash them into fresh bread and drizzle them with homemade olive oil - 'the mother of the bruschetta' he called it.
He went on to study Engineering in college, focussing on Satellite Communications.
When he came to Ireland to help Stefano and Eileen in their restaurant ventures, he brought his love of food with him. Helping them to establish a number of restaurants, including the ever popular Bar Italia and La Corte group in Dublin, L'Officina in Dundrum and Kildare.
David has been highly praised for developing the pizza base used by the restaurants; he worked tirelessly with top Italian chefs to create a base from slow rising dough that is lighter than others, making it easier to digest. The results are there for all to see: what began as 30 pizzas a week is now over 700, with the pizza base just being part of the reason:
"...the cheese we use is real mozzarella and not the processed cheese most pizza manufactures use. In the end the customer notices and we’ve the reputation for having one of the best pizzas in Dublin."
Not one to rest on his laurels, David envisages a time where not only does the Dunne and Crescenzi collection supply itself, but can supply the public as well.
"In the meantime, we want to keep our customers happy and we do that by giving them a real taste of Italy"