I’m on the outskirts in Newtown, where they have struck gold with a recently opened Italian Osteria, Cicio Cacio (aka Chubby Cheese).
Being Italian, I’m always a little sceptical of Italian food outside of my Nonna’s house, Island Bay (‘Little Italy’ suburb of Wellington) or Italy, however this quickly dissipated as my nose went into spasms upon arrival. Nonna I’ve come home!
Cicio Cacio is the bambino of Giulio Ricatti (ex Ombra’s El Capitan). Working alongside Co-Chef Emilio Zunino (also ex Ombra), Ricatti has transformed this architecturally weird, former Swiss Chalet into humble, cosy surroundings.
When I arrived, my thirsty friends were already partaking in a bottle of Italian Sangiovese, and munching on a complimentary basket of homemade bread.
Our waitress Patricia (Head Chef’s wife) was so lovely and our ost(eria)ess with the mostest. She took our primo order of the orecchiete (ear-shaped) pasta with broccoli, anchovies, garlic, chilli and pecorino. This was such a pleasant, gutsy combo and very tasty. Italians do love a touch of chilli you know and it features in many of their dishes.
The simple, no fuss-menu is what grabbed me as being their secret; four pastas, 5 mains, 4 sides and 2 desserts. Like the good osterias in Italy, it’s fresh, seasonal, and they get on with delivering you that taste of Italy, just like Mamma makes.
For our second choice, we chose the marinated pork chop and homemade, juicy pork saussies. These arrived together on a BBQ type hotplate which added to the rusticity of the meal. The delectable smell that wafted and lingered was divine. The tender succulence and smokiness of the pork was heavenly and no doubt, this had been marinated in advance. Italians so know how to cook pork. Mind you they so know how to cook anything. We loved the fact that the plate was garnished simply with lemon, which when squeezed, further adds to bringing out the flavours.
Darn, the famous side of cauli gratin had been replaced by silverbeet gratin. I did succumb though and it was creamy and enhanced with some sharp pecorino cheese, taking it to another level.
Within a week, I had to make a quick a ritorno to Cicio Cacio with some other friends, as I had to try the chicken (technology problem so no photo). I got to have a nibble of the penne arrabiata which was gorgeous but OMG the chicken was absolutely divine and got the big nod of appreciation. The side salad was bland with minimal dressing. We were gutted that they’d run out of spuds. Darn no ‘famous’ cauli and no roast spuds. Reluctantly we tried the charred eggplants cooked by the Indian next door? What Indian next door? That’s what it said on the menu. Funny. One word; delisioso! I gotta meet this Indian next door.
But wait there’s more. No tiramisu. What? I should have taken a bite from the lovely family beside me who offered me some. Boys, pleasea makea more so you don’ta run out. Fortunately the pannacotta came up trumps.
Being very busy did impact the service making it very slow but they were still friendly. We also noticed an eclectic mix of Italian church-sounding music playing, which wasn’t that pleasant on the old eardrums. These things could do with a little tweaking.
Mamma Mia, I will be a chubby cheese if I come back, which is a definite. Meaning I will come back, not me being a chubby cheese.
Ricotta Ricotti and Panino Zunino, you have an Italian marriage made in heaven. That’s amore. Keep working on it though.