There is a man in Drogheda whose reputation became known to me the day after I moved to Ireland. I was sitting in the immigration office of the local garda station waiting for my Irish ID card and chatting with Dennis, the head officer there. As soon as he heard I was a food and travel journalist, he insisted I try La Pizzeria, an Italian restaurant that had been in Drogheda for over 20 years and was still going strong. But his recommendation came with a caveat: “Don’t be late and don’t do anything to make Jian Carlo mad.”


Over the next few months I got more referrals to La Pizzeria from taxi drivers, shopkeepers and my new Irish friends. And every single one of them included their own version of Dennis’ warning. From what I could gather, this Jian Carlo guy was basically Drogheda’s version of Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” character, who infamously dismissed fickle or slow-moving customers with a thunderous “NEXT!” before demanding they leave the premises. But customers always came back because they couldn’t live without his delectable soupy creations. To be honest, it didn’t exactly make me want to run over to La Pizzeria, despite the fact that basically everyone in town raved about the food there.