I’ve walked down Dawson Street countless times and have never once even noticed this little gem. Tucked away underneath The Design House, Sweet Sicily is a hidden part of Italy nestled right in the middle of Dublin city centre.
When I went down the steps and into the cafe, I was greeted by a wonderful display of freshly baked desserts and sandwiches. The smell was amazing. Sadly nothing on the menu was vegan, so I had to resist everything bar a cup of tea – they had soya milk thankfully! The front of the cafe was also a tad cramped, three small tables and chairs lined the walls, but then I noticed the adjoining room and hallway full of extra tables and realised that the cafe was deceptively spacious. I still had to shimmy past a table or two to make it to my own, but the place wasn’t so narrow as to be bothersome.
The staff were pleasant but authentically Italian to the point of actually not understanding my order. They spoke Italian to each other and if anything, that just added to the feel of being in a little piece of Italy. That said, I did find it a tad odd when I had to ask for a cup of tea three times before they understood what I meant. Maybe it’s my accent. Maybe the waitress was new. Either way, at that moment I genuinely felt like I was a typical Irish tourist trying to place a simple order in Sicily. Had the weather been nicer, I may even have been momentarily convinced of it.
Several cups of tea later, served in (my favourite) china tea cups, I ventured upstairs and explored the Design House. The cafe is basically an extension of the shop, which fills the stairway and each floor above with enough materials and trinkets to keep a person wandering around the building for a full Saturday afternoon. I got very lost when looking for the restroom – not that I minded, I saw a lot of the shop along the way. For future reference, you should all just ask the staff there, they’re well used to people like me messing up the directions and ending up on the entirely wrong floor. With the bathroom tucked behind a large mirrored door, they brought it on themselves really.
I think the cafe deserves one final mention for their prices. Coffee, tea, cakes and sandwiches were very reasonably priced for a location so central in town. Maybe it’s because they’re so tucked away and hidden from the rest of the city that means they’ve to keep their costs down to draw customers, but I like to think it’s because they’re one more of the many hidden gems in the city that are more about the food than profit. You can tell it works too – while I was there I noticed several customers exchanging basic Italian with the staff, those being the regulars who’d learnt it and used it in the cafe after several visits. Maybe I’ll try that for next time, I do remember briefly studying the language in Transition year…
In a nutshell, the place is absolutely worth a rainy day visit. I came on a Saturday morning and I probably wouldn’t advise going on a busy day as you could be waiting an age for a seat.
If you want Italian pastries and coffees, it’s a complete find.