While Cucinetta translates to kitchenette in English the venue Cucinetta is anything but a kitchenette. It is a fine dining, but at the same time, relaxed Italian marvel of A-Grade cuisine designed and prepared from Chef Vincenzo Mazzotta who has owned the venue for eleven years now. Following on from a fantastic renovation it is now expanded and more beautiful than ever, framing Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Huge thanks to the wonderful folks at Australian Good Food Guide for introducing me to the venue and the wonderful dining experience we had.
It was the delightful Cecelia Tao from FCBA I took along as my guest to Cucinetta and the two of us were mind blown by pretty much everything. The venue itself is a free standing establishment sitting up on the water side of Woolwich Rd in (you guessed it), Woolwich. The venue looks out on to Sydney Harbour from the other side of the Harbour Bridge. In front of the venue is a massive grass lawn so the outlook is even more alluring.
Undergoing a renovation, apparently mostly carried out by Chef’s hands, the venue has now extended the inners out to where a balcony covering used to run. The internal layout is a LOT of tables with a mostly open kitchen on one side and that outlook on the other. The kitchen is framed in beautifully cut logs and to the right of the kitchen is a small but fully functioning bar you will meet as you come through the small entryway. The place feels warm and romantic. It is the kind of fancy restaurant that is quiet and there for you to court your pending partner. But while it felt that way, there was only one romantic couple I could see in the venue.
There was Cecelia and myself and as much as she keeps flirting it just can’t happen haha. Then there was two large family tables and a few tables of friends around the place. We attended on a Tuesday night and by the middle of our dinner the place was half packed. Not something I would expect on a Tuesday night. Bravo.
The staff were all more mature than the usual uni student wait staff and they all appeared to have fine dining experience. They had just received their new uniforms and were reminding me of early 20th century garçon from France. I loved the uniforms and apparently, so did the staff.
From their website:
Cucinetta is about the revival of the old, Classic & ancient. Vincenzo’s passion in food derives directly from a love of reviving forgotten methods. Through to traditional slow cooking, cheese making, fresh pasta techniques & preserving he aims to continue these traditions by hand with a great respect to the way cooking used to be and how we can use each method in today’s kitchens. We work with many small farmers, growers and producers along with growing our own in the garden to source the finest ingredients. Just like in a market place our menu changes with the ingredients, one day its here the next day it’s gone.
There is no menu online and we never actually saw a menu when in the venue but I am sure there is one that changes regularly. We had a menu prepared for us, a five course degustation sampling menu lay waiting on our table, I squealed a little bit at seeing it.
CHEF VINCENZO MAZZOTTA:
Chef Vincenzo Mazzotta is a high achieving and passionate Chef. At age eighteen he was the Head Chef at Ecco Italian Restaurant in Drummoyne and remained there for five years before opening Cucinetta. He opened this in Woolwich, a highly affluent area, in a venue that is incredibly large and I can only imagine has a rent requirement that matches its size and location. But not only did his restaurant survive the first year, it flourished and is now going through a massive revival eleven years later. I can only put his skills down to being a naturally talented individual. He has not trained with the greats overseas but has mastered his craft on his own. His food and plating is up there as some of the best I have eaten in 2017.
WHAT WE WERE SERVED:
Leggeri: House made focaccia and pane caraway, buffalo ricotta and truffle honey – Paired with a 2016 Val d’oda Prosecco millesimato
Antipasto: 30 day dry aged tuna tartare dressed with lemon, chilli, seared Canadian scallops, coriander and mix seed cracker – Paired with 2015 Lava Falanghina IGT
Pasta: Grilled beetroot gnocchi, slow cooked 1800s style osso bucco ragu with smoked cheese sauce and porcini – Paired with 2015 Masciarelli Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo
Maialino: Twice cooked Sardinian style Berkshire pork belly, celeriac, charred brussel sprouts, fermented sultana, caramelised cumquats and puffed grains – Paired with 2011 Monitor Chianti Classico
Dolce: Classic Crema Catalana with caramelised white chcolate soil, meringue, citrus, pistachio, berry puree and blood orange sorbet – Paired with 2012 Vinsanto di Montepulciano
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Everything we ate was divine and perfectly paired with wine. The plating was sublime and the flavours were marvellous. Starting with what looked like a simple snack platter was actually house made focaccia and pane caraway, buffalo ricotta and truffle honey with a bowl of warm Sicilian olives. Spreading the cheese on the focaccia and taking that first bite was incredible. The buffalo ricotta drizzled with truffle honey was one of the best cheeses I have ever eaten. I loved it so much they gave me a container of it to take home. I am snacking on it while writing this review. And those olives – warmed through they opened all their flavours and slid down like liquid gold. Washing it down with the prosecco was an added treat.
The tuna tartare and scallops were presented like a piece of art – just stunning. Cecelia thought the scallops were a little over done but I didn’t notice. I don’t think the mix seed cracker is needed for the dish however. The Lava Falanghina I didn’t finish but this was purely because I was driving and knew a more was coming.
Next up was the grilled beetroot gnocchi, slow cooked 1800s style osso bucco ragu with smoked cheese sauce and porcini. This dish came in at equal favourite with the cheese. I am beetroot obsessed and worship gnocchi. The combination was a master stroke and it is highly possible my eyes rolled back in my head as my toes curled while downing this dish. The Osso Bucco Ragu worked well with it but the gnocchi would have also been marvellous on its own. Montepulciano is one of my favourite grapes and this wine hardly touched the sides of the glass.
Pork belly is another regular favourite of mine. It occasionally suffers the fate of being dry but Cucinetta’s was cooked to perfection. Crisp crackling that made the dish, but also the perfect fat ratio to give that juicy flavour throughout. I squealed when I saw the brussel sprouts – one of my favourite things on Earth and I thought the celeriac and cumquats were a perfect accompaniment. The fermented sultana however – just not my thing – funny story – when getting the dish ready for a photo I thought it was a pickle, an odd choice but yeah, a pickle. I went to move it closer to the main dish and put my fingers into the possum pooh shaped sultanas haha. Delicious dish – just didn’t need the sultanas for me. The Chianti was a brilliant pairing but I did not finish this wine either. The woes of driving.
The Classic Crema Catalana with caramelised white chcolate soil, meringue, citrus, pistachio, berry puree and blood orange sorbet is currently my favourite dessert of 2017. There are a few differences between brûlée and catalana. Crema catalana uses fine cornflour; crème brûlée doesn’t. And crema catalana is not baked in the bain-marie, as crème brûlée is. On the other hand, crème brûlée is made with heavy cream, and crema catalana with milk. When looking at it the only difference you will see is the catalana is not in a dish like most brûlée.
It didn’t have the top crack you look for in a brûlée but it tasted wonderful. This dish had more elements than the pork belly but everything on this plate worked in unison to better the dish as a whole. The blood orange sorbet was applause worthy and the sneaky little crunchy nuts brought it all home. The Vinsanto di Montepulciano tasted like a Montepulciano Botrytis closer to a port in heaviness and this just made me all warm and fuzzy on the inside. I will be buying a bottle or twelve of this dessert wine for home.
It was a pleasure to dine at Cucinetta, easily one of my favourite venues of 2017 so far. It is elegant and affluent with top notch fine dining and wonderful harbour views but it still manages to be relaxed, non-pretentious and a superb place to indulge in a wine paired degustation. I will be back for more of that cheese and also the epic beetroot gnocchi. Grazie.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 2/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 1/1 bonus
PH: (02) 9817 2125
103 Woolwich Road, Woolwich NSW 2110
HOURS: LUNCHES FRI – SUN rom 12 | DINNERS TUES – SAT from 530
BAR: Full bar
LOCAL DELIVERY: No
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Check with venue
KID FRIENDLY: Yes but fancy
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) were invited guests of the establishment and/or any PR agencies representing them. However, as always, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such ***