ANDRE’S CUCINA, Adelaide
I have to say, I’m really enjoying Andre’s Cucina these days. It took a while to grow on me but since the early days, the menu and food have improved a lot. Initially it was more of a polenta bar (Cucina and Polenta Bar), and the polenta wasn’t cheap – but now, it’s so much more! You don’t even have to go anywhere near polenta if you don’t want to. The owner, Andre Ursini, was a contenstant in the 2009 series of Masterchef and is committed to tasty, rustic Italian fare.
Inside, it’s simple wood furniture, a bar clad with newspaper articles, jars, bottles and pastas along the walls and a blackboard menu. It’s pretty dimly lit (so excuse my photos!), and it’s always buzzy – in fact, I don’t think I’ve been when it hasn’t been full or close to it.
If you go to Andre’s, you’d be crazy not to have the ‘Menu Fisso’ where they just bring out food to the table – “Let the kitchen feed you our way!” – no decisions required – I love that!. At $62 per person, it’s excellent value.
We started with some large green olives stuffed with herbed ricotta, crumbed and lightly fried with salsa and parmigiano. I really like a good stuffed olive and these ones were nice and plump. They were followed by a couple of platters – one vegetarian – sweet potato crisps, roasted and grilled vegetables and caponata, buffalo ricotta and beetroot puree (this was the least favourite of the dishes for my four male companions), and the other meat based – salumi – prosciutto di parma, mortadella, salami, porchetta, bresaola, with house made grissini. I love mortadella!
Then came the carpaccio’s. The salmon carpaccio with peperoni colorati, caperi and olive oil was nice but it was the Black Angus beef carpaccio with walnut and taralli crumb, truffle pecorino and balsamico that was truly special. We definitely could have had more of this. A great blend of flavours and textures. And I always get excited when someone puts a nice oozy burrata in front of me. This soft cream filled mozzarella was served up with panzanella and 24 month prosciutto di parma.
One of my favourite dishes for the night was the hand crafted cavatelli pasta, salsiccia, prosciutto, leek and pecorino romano. Absolutely beautiful. The pasta was a perfect texture, there was great flavour from the sausage and just enough cheese. It’s a shame I had to share it! My other favourite was the zucchini and caper filled garfish on potato puree with mussels, fagolini and allo safferano.
And then, just when you think you’ve had enough… there was the light and fluffy gnocchi with beef ragu, which was hoovered up by the boys in seconds, and a very very tasty sliced flat iron steak with potato, parmigiano and balsamic. And of course, these were accompanied by… polenta! The polenta for the day was soft baked with a ragu di bologana, asiago and crispy prosciutto.
After all this, we were wondering if we could fit dessert in but when the Italian donuts arrived, we had no problem. They looked heavy but they were nice and light.
I loved our wine choices too – a dolcetto from the Adelaide Hills and a Hentley Farm shiraz. The ‘menu fisso’ is a must. There’s a good variety of food and lots of it. This place may look unassuming from the outside but you’ll get excellent food and service. We all left very happy and with full tummies.