Since opening just under two years ago, Dublin 8’s Fumbally Cafe has become an institution in Dublin’s food and coffee scene. The beaming Luca D’Alfonso is the café’s co-founder and architect of the rich menu of carefully-sourced food and open, loud atmosphere that keeps it buzzing from open to close. We caught up with the cheerful Italian to talk about his surrogate city, and what keeps it exciting for him.
When did you come to Dublin first, and what is it about the city that you first fell in love with?
I first came 12 years ago – I came over to learn the language and then go back home after three months. Well, the language never improved for me but I’m still here. I was very excited when I first came here. The city’s nightlife was especially good – you can find something to do every single night if you want to. I made lots of friends and never wanted to leave.
Have you had friends over from Italy to visit? How did you spend your time, and what would you recommend any new visitors from Italy do when they come here?
Loads of them! Dublin is full of little amazing pubs, so I bring them to places like Fallon’s Capstan which is very close to the Fumbally, and Grogan’s which is just always full of people and very alive. I like bringing friends to the seaside, especially Greystones [town on the border of Wicklow and Dublin]. There’s a vegetable shop and restaurant, the Happy Pear, that are doing amazing things – it’s incredible. When you’re full of the city, take a car and in 20 minutes you’re in the countryside, the mountains or the seaside. Another interesting thing that’s happening is pop-ups, restaurants happening for a few weeks in museums and so on – you need to keep looking out for them, there are a lot of creative things going on with them.
As a food obsessive, where do you eat?
Forest Avenue and Etto both opened not too long ago and are incredible additions to the city’s food scene. Their design is interesting; they’re there for the passion of the food, so much into the creativity of food. They change the menu every four days so you could go every week and never get bored, there’s a lot of energy in them.
For cafés, there are a lot of other people doing wonderful work. There’s 3FE, the coffee shop and roastery who supply us. We love Brother Hubbard’s food and coffee. There’s Bibi’s, which is a little, little, tiny place in Portobello – 10 seats, and incredible food. The Cake Cafe is an establishment, and now they have a new place, Slice, opening in Stoneybatter. I live there close to the Lilliput Stores, which is good news for somebody who likes food as much as me.
As well as running a café, you also founded the Dublin Flea Market. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
The Flea Market was something we thought was missing in Dublin. We were already selling food in the Dublin Food Co-Op, so we asked them if we could do the market there. We had a few ideas behind it. We wanted to give [people] a platform to sell their stuff without needing to be professional, we wanted them to be able to find bargains, and the beauty of having somewhere to go on a Sunday to be social when you’re maybe a little bit hung-over. When we started maybe we had 15 stalls, and now we have 65-70. After 5 years, it’s always changing and every Sunday is different with a different atmosphere.
Dublin 8 around the Flea Market is very exciting at the moment. There are two distilleries opening, Dublin Whiskey Company and Teelings, and a brewery called The 5 Lamps Dublin Brewery who make Blackpitts Porter, that have just started and are available in craft beer pubs across Dublin. It’s cool that Dublin is making its own beers that are local specialities. We’ll soon be opening a building next door to the Fumbally that will be a mix of ideas, a kind of food playground. We will have a 50-seater communal table for people to come and eat, share their ideas about food. There will be a residency room for a different artist or cook to stay in each month. We’ll have a yoga and massage parlour too. There are lots of different ideas at the moment.
What’s your hidden gem in the city?
The Phoenix Park, which I live next to. Having a park that’s so big and beautiful just next to the city is incredible. I usually go for a walk with friends’ dogs in the mornings, when the deer are out and walking around too. I love there and the Iveagh Gardens, a special park in the centre of the city.