Romano Morelli doesn’t hide his passion. He hangs it up for his customers to see. On a partition between two tables, in his Capel Street restaurant, called Romano, stands a racing bike. That was his first bicycle.
At least once a day it is not unusual to see a cyclist wheel their bicycle out past the diners. That individual is Romano himself. He is going to, or returning from his regular spin to the hill of Howth.
Sitting in the restaurant enjoying a pasta dish you can’t help but wonder what is the connection between the proprietor and the gaunt faced athletes that stare down from the pictures on the walls. Morelli, who was born in Malahide, isn’t from a family of cycling champions. He was a runner and only took up the bike to help heal an injured ankle in 1983. Once in the saddle he got bitten by the bug. Now in his 60s he proudly admits to still racing in the senior league.
All of the pictures on the walls of the small Italian restaurant have to do with cycling. The large black-and-white photographs above each table are mostly from the 1924 Tour de France. Romano bought the entire collection and had them imported from New York. Other pictures are of patrons or their relations on cycling holidays; there are photographs of the greats of Irish cycling and one or two are of Romano heading off to some race on his faithful charger.
Romano justifies the memorabilia by saying that many of his customers are cyclists. On this particular afternoon the clientele scattered about are what you would expect to find in any city centre restaurant. There are secretaries, business people, shoppers and the odd pensioner. Nobody is wearing cycling shorts or has a helmet lying on the table as they gobble down pasta.
Whatever the explanation is that Romano feels he needs to give for the decor, the food in his restaurant speaks for itself. All of the pasta is homemade, as is the dough for the pizzas.
The dish I had was Pasta al Pollo. It was a simple arrangement, Apart from black olives, it consisted of granular pesto. The salad starter came with balls of mozzarella cheese. On the table there were ample supplies of olive oil and vinegar. The cost of this authentic Italian experience, even if he didn’t have a bicycle locked up outside, was nine euros 95 with coffee.