Tag Archives: Italian

Delectable Feast in Newport Beach

Fashion Island, Newport Beach,
Orange County, California

Suffice to say, being the parents of 3 year old twins, we don’t often time for a ‘date night’ meal. Especially one that is 11,000kms away. However, sometimes you have to go the distance, to make these things happen!CelesteReviews Cucina Enoteca

Blame it on the jet lag, or the rose tinted glasses of a few days of ‘twinlessness’, but I still believe Cucina Enoteca was one of the best dining experiences that Hubby and I have ever had.

Celeste CelesteReviews

From our wonderfully attentive waiter (Andy), who intelligently answered all our questions (of both the food and wine), all while deciphering our thick NZ accents, to the quirky decor, funky ambience and interesting toilet wishes (more about that later), this was a 5 Star, A+, top quality meal.

And, I haven’t even touched on the food or wine yet.

The wine selection was huge and as an added bonus, you could purchase a bottle from their retail store and consume it (for a small corkage fee) with your meal.

As a vegetarian, I was impressed with the unique options available on the menu. We began our evening with the artichoke and truffle hummus, which was served in a mason jar, and so delicious, we had to order more bread.

CelesteReviews Aritchoke Truffle Hummus

Artichoke & Truffle Hummus

CelesteReview Mushroom Bolognaise

Mushroom Bolognaise

The mushroom bolognaise was an outstanding dish – and I’m sure a meat eater wouldn’t have even realised it was vegetarian.

Hubby opted for one of the signature dishes (short rib pappardelli) and wasn’t disappointed. Both meals were perfectly portioned and went well with our local Zinfandel.

CelesteReviews Short Rib Pappardelli

Short Rib Pappardelli

We were having such a great evening that we even indulged in dessert, which we are usually too full to enjoy.

CelesteReviews Torta Della Nonn

Torta della Nonna

We shared the torta della nonna – pinenut and blackberry prosecco sorbet with lemon sago – absolutely scrumptious.

No trip to this restaurant is complete without visiting the ladies toilet. As another quirky touch, a wish board awaits. You can write your hearts desire on a small piece of paper and tuck it into a frame with all the other wishes.

The staff delight in reading these wishes from time to time, so being the curious girl that I am, I had to find out what the most interesting wish they had seen was. Apparently, “I wish that my cheating husband contracts Ebola” is at the top of the list…

We can not wait to move to California, so we can enjoy this dining experience again. Oh, didn’t I tell you that we will be setting up house in the OC in the not too distant future? Well, that adventure might just be the next blog that I embark on…

Caffe e Cucina

265 Albany Highway, Auckland

You wouldn’t expect too much from a restaurant that shares a car park with a bright green outdoor power equipment mega store and a day care center, but Caffe e Cucina is actually a sophisticated Italian restaurant that opened near Albany, in October 2010. Although it’s technically located on the North Shore, the restaurant is only 10 minutes from the end of the North Western Motorway.

After a long and busy week of work, the husband and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Caffe e Cucina one recent Friday evening. Even though a reservation was made for 7pm, we were requested to wait in the bar area for a further 25 minutes until our table was ‘ready’.

Caffee e Cucina Bar

The Bar Area

Sitting in the swankily decorated bar area for so long allowed me to sift through their extensive wine list, which included a good selection of international reds (including Penfold’s Grange at $930 per bottle, if you are so inclined). One wall in the dining area has been turned into a display cellar, although I’d worry about storing the Grange in an environment with such fluctuating temperature. They also have many international beers on tap; Kronenberg, Pure Blonde and Asahi (Japan), plus a tap cider – Bulmers Cider (UK), and the bar staff appeared confident in shaking up a few cocktails, while we watched.

Our wait also gave me plenty of time to read about their upcoming events, which included different live music every Sunday afternoon, and their own Wine Festival.

We were finally seated in an enclosed, outdoor area, which is actually a pretty fancy architectural design, that I imagine will bode well in Auckland’s ever changing climate. The space is quite noisy and unfortunately the table filled with screaming children beside us increased this issue. I think their mother could feel my piercing glare, as the children were soon moved on.

Wine Wall

Wine Wall

Now, you’ll be reading this and feeling like I didn’t enjoy my dinner, but you’d be wrong. I haven’t told you about the food, yet…

The menu is extensive, with separate menu sections for Breakfast, Italian Tapas, Entrées, Mains, Pizza, Pasta and Dessert, and a huge and varied vegetarian selection.

To begin with the husband and I shared the Pane Misto, fresh warm ciabatta with olive oil, herb butter and mushroom infused crème fraiche ($14) and the Involtini Zucchini dish, with thin slices of Zucchini wrapped around ricotta, parmesan and herbs, baked in cream ($10) from the tapas menu. The Involtini was tasty, and I could have eaten the mushroom crème fraiche until the cows came home – simply divine, melt in your mouth, scrumptious.

Bread, dip and zucchini entrees

Bread and dips, plus Involtini Zucchini

We both selected items from the pasta menu for our mains. The husband enjoyed his wood fired oven lasagne of beef, ham and mushrooms, and he even liked his side salad. I feasted on Risotto ai Fungi – a risotto of mushrooms, parmigiano and truffle oil. It was a generous portion and I ate far too much, but it was heavenly and I couldn’t stop myself.

Mushroom Risotto at Caffe e Cucina

Mushroom Risotto

I would have loved to try something from their dessert menu – tiramisu, lemon tart, sorbet, gelato … but, alas, I had no room for anything more. As it was, the husband had to nearly roll me out to the car at the end of the meal.

Living in Waitakere, where alcohol is ruled by the Trust, we are very limited for trendy restaurants and bars, so with Caffe e Cucina only 10 minutes up the road, this is quite a find!

Improvements: One word – Service. Although we had very capable looking wait staff, the level of service didn’t match the style and tone of the restaurant. Our entrée had been finished for 10 minutes before our table was cleared, and then they thought about even taking our mains order. Perhaps I expect too much?

In a nutshell: Fantastic food, great décor. We’ll definitely visit again, firstly to try out their breakfast menu and also to see if their service has improved.

Mama Mia!

An Italian Pot Luck Dinner Party

A pot luck dinner party is a tried and true traditional way of getting your friends together for a meal. The trouble is, the hubby and I aren’t very traditional, so we thought we’d spice up our dinner party with a theme – Italian.Italian Dinner Setting

In my typical organisational fashion (read bossy), I circulated information on how the Italians dine (many courses), and ideas on dishes. You see, although I’d never held one at home, I’d helped run a couple of other Italian Dinners in my time – two in 2010, and one in 2009 when a real Italian Mama came to tea.

Decorations included a red and white chequered table cloth, Italian flag hanging, and a framed print of Venice’s Bridge of Sighs on the wall. The hubby even found some Italian Opera to blast at guests as they arrived.

To keep in theme we tracked down some Italian wine (which in a dry area of Auckland is no mean feat – it was a mission to even find a store that knew what Montepulciano was). I even managed to find a New Zealand example of Montepulciano to compare with the Italian example, along with Chianti in a traditional wicker bottle basket and some Peroni Beer.

Our guests truly stepped up to the evening’s theme, with the pot luck food. For starters, we enjoyed spectacular toothpick skewers of cherry tomatoes, basil leaf and bocconcini, along with melon morsels wrapped in prosciutto.

Italian Skewers

Cherry Tomatoes, Basil & Bocconcini

The main dishes included a traditional meat lasagne, fresh focaccia (made by hubby), home made calzone and a superb salad with olives and flatbread. My creation was a scrumptious tomato eggplant dish (imagine cannelloni, but with thinly sliced eggplant instead), the recipe provided by my culinary goddesses that I work with.

Italian Feast

My plate - a slice of everything (except lasagne)

Dessert included the most fantastically delicious twist on the Italian favourite – Tiramisu, with a homemade Tiramisu cake – think sponge, coffee, and chunks of chocolate. Bellissimo!

Tiramisu Cake

Tiramisu Cake

Now we just have to decide on the theme for the next dinner. Any ideas? Stay tuned!

In a nutshell: Be brave with your dinner parties, it can be loads of fun.