As we entered Chapel Street stalwart Caffe e Cucina we were warmly greeted by the manager, Italian accent equipped, and taken to a seat right by the bar. The most striking thing about Caffe e Cucina is its dimly lit and welcoming interior which can only be likened to what I would imagine the house of an elderly Italian woman would look like.
CP: You come to this place a fair bit, don’t you?
HF: Yeah, I actually used to coach the owner’s son in tennis.
CP: I’ve been here once, the food was good. I think I had duck cannelloni.
HF: They changed the menu pretty recently, so that dish isn’t on it anymore. I tend to stick to the pastas and I think that’s what most people do as well. This place is mega popular for its pastas.
CP: Well, I guess I’ll have to have pasta then.
HF: I reckon you should get the braised veal fusilli. I’ve had it heaps of times here. It is like my go to meal at Caffee e Cucina. You can’t go past it.
A bowl of bread and olive oil is delivered to the table.
HF: Do this.
Henry proceeds to grind salt and pepper onto his side plate.
CP: What are you doing?
HF: You dip bread in the olive oil then rub it in the cracked pepper and salt.
CP: Who does that?
HF: The owner of Caffe e Cucina does it.
Charlie does the same.
CP: Oh wow, it’s actually pretty good.
The manager waltzes over to take our order. Henry orders the Linguine de Mare el Cartoccio and Charlie ordered the Fusilli alla Genovese.
Soon after our meals were brought out. The speed of service was excellent and our waiters were quick to our aide if our glasses were empty or we had a question.
CP: This is really good. The fusilli has that al dente texture that makes it a heartier pasta compared to your girly linguine. The way the onions haven’t compromised the texture is also really enjoyable. Rather then feeling the crunchiness every so often that you would get at a crappy Italian restaurant, the veal and onions are one.
Fusilli alla Genovese: Pasta al ferretto, caramelised onions, white wine and braised baby veal
HF: Yeah, like I said the Fusilli alla Genovese never fails. It actually use to be more of a tomato-based sauce, but now its white wine based. Both are really good, but I think the new version is a lot better.
CP: It’s a good portion as well. I would have expected something small and inadequate but this is the perfect size. How’s yours?
HF: It’s good.
Linguine de Mare el Cartoccio: Pipis, prawns, mussels, scallops, garlic, chilli and tomato, baked in parchment paper
CP: …and? are you going to tell me why it’s in a paper bag?
HF: I think just before its served they give it a tossing over heat in the bag.
CP: I think you just made that up.
HF: Nah man.
HF: Wow, this is actually great. I love seafood. This is also al dente, cooked in oil with the bulk of the flavours from the cherry tomatoes and the essence of seafood. The paper bag is a great touch and to be honest, I think it adds a bit of surprise and uniqueness to the dish. I can tell I’m going to soak up every inch of this tomatoey oil with bread. I can’t get enough of it.
We finished our meals, leaving clean plates and will be sure to return to Caffe e Cucina in the future.