Sunday, 6 May 2012


Ate the other night at Cugini, the new Italian place in Bellerive, on the site of the former Jean Pascals. I have received much positive praise and delight in the food there, so it was with great confidence that I went along there assuming I was going to witness the second coming of the pasta god!

My most favourite Italian in Hobart is without a doubt Da Angelos. Unfortunately Cugini didn’t reach my Da Angelo pinnacle, but they tried hard!

There are a few teething problems I saw which need addressing, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell Fonzie and Joe what they are, but I know Cugini will forge its way ahead to be THE place to go on the Eastern shore in a few months, after they’re bedded down and well settled in.

First thing to look at is the absolute hammering they got from takeaways. The place was chockers all night with people waiting for, and collecting, takeaways. I honestly don’t know how the kitchen coped with the sheer volume of takeaways, let alone restaurant orders. They MUST find a satisfactory way to make both sets of customers happy. Speaking to an Eastern shore friend the day after I ate there, I asked if she had eaten at or had takeaway from Cugini. She said she’s had good takeaway pizza from there twice but last time they called in advance to order pizza they were told it would be at least an hours wait, and probably an hour and a half, so they decided to look elsewhere for their dinner, and probably will overlook Cugini next time because Cugini is obviously too busy. She’s a ‘dink’ (=double income, no kids), so when the ‘dinks’ are deserting you, you need to look at the state of things!

I don’t know how other pasta restaurants deal with that ongoing issue, but given that Cugini is another one of those places where, when the noise level is at it’s highest, you can’t hear a single thing anyone is saying to you, conversation while you’re waiting is negated, so what is there left to do other than drink, and read lips!

The menu is sound, and extensive enough for there to be the variety to cater to the fussiest amongst us. The prices are on a par with similar places round the city, so nothing remarkable there. The service, whilst acknowledging it was fine, left me with not one feeling of humanity at all. I didn’t feel we connected. It’s all very well to do the physical job, but I want more! I want to feel like my waitperson WANTS to be there, in that room, doing that job, well – just because they choose to. Apart from Joe, the girls waiting on us gave us nothing other than answers to questions, taking our order, bringing out plates, and clearing back plates.

I want my dining out to be FUN. Is that asking too much? Maybe I’m wanting way more than is possible to be delivered, but I know with certainty it actually CAN be delivered, because I’ve both given it, and been on the receiving end of good, fun service – and it’s worth its weight in gold!

The food was good – nothing spectacular – but good. We shared garlic bread, then 3 of us had the chilli and salt calamari entrée ($14) which was alright but a bit floury. The 4 mains for our table were: fettucine marinara ($19) – deemed good, mushroom gnocchi entrée size ($12 – excellent), chicken parmigiana ($24) – good, but not as good as Da Angelos, and spaghetti bolognaise entrée size ($12) - good.

Two of us desserted on the selection of house-made ice creams, which starred a most magnificent peanut butter flavoured ice cream amongst the 3 random scoops. That, truly, was to die for!

So – my summation – our experience at Cugini was fine, and I’m nit-picking with the things I have highlighted here today, but I know the boys would like to do it well, and not just settle for ‘alright’. I know they have the ability to deliver perfection, so why not look on my review as a challenge!

34 Cambridge Road
Ph 6244 2727
Open Tues - Sun, 5pm - 10pm


Christina said...

So as you know Rita, we visited Cugini the night before you and we had a different experience than you I feel.
I must say the service on our night was perfect. Ashamed to say I didn't get our waitress's name but she was a lovely young blonde lady. She took the time to answer all our questions and did her absolute best, with the kitchen staff, to accomodate our needs, especially as one among cannot eat dairy.
We shared crisp parmesan battered oysters with a caramel balsamic, really nice, and a garlic pizza, half regular cheese and half parmesan for our dairy girl. Bloody beautiful and up there with D'angelos.
I had a vegetarian pizza with extras, salami, anchovies, chilli and again, as good as I had from Angelo. Sue had a pizza with the lot which she adored, Kylie lasagne which she loved,and I can't remember what Deb had, but she loved it. None of us had pasta, except the lasagna dish of course, and this seems to be the difference with our experiences.
I tend not to order pasta when I'm out as I cook it at home so often.
The highlight for me, and perhaps because I rarely order dessert was the trio of home made ice cream. Peanut butter, chocolate, and banana toffee, based on a snicker I was informed.
At the end of our meal, one of the owners, Fonzie I'm told, stopped at our table for a chat. We all told him how much we enjoyed our meal, and when I raved about his icecream I was given a container to take home for Phil to try. Needless to say he had to share.
Our experience there was wonderful and we are already planning our next meal there. We were seated up the back so did miss a lot of the coming and going at the front of the restaurant, this may explain why our experience was different too Rita. I had been to D'angelo's on the Monday night and was eager to compare the two simply because I rate Angelos so highly. My conclusion was that I was super impressed with both the service and the food at Cugini's and will definitely return.

sir grumpy said...

Sounds nice enough, Rita.
We've been havinga mini-Italian thingy at home.
I've hit a fed-up with Chinese and Indian patch and am getting into more European things.
Even ol British grum such as pea and ham soup and steak pies.
But Italian is fast emerging as our new bolt-hole, so I may get even fatter wit all that lovely pasta etc,

Christina said...

Sir G, please try Hejo's, opposite Banjo's in Elizabeth Street.
I know you said your a little over the Chinese thing, but I'd love to hear what you think of this place as we thought it was pretty darn awesome!
Also "do yourself a favour" and get yourself to Cugini's asap, although like Paesano's it's more of a pizza/pasta place than say D'angelo's which has a more varied menu.

e said...

a melb friend and i went to cugini in march and had a wonderful meal: delicious homestyle food (a good thign when it's italian),lovely friendly service from the waitresses and lovely italian flirtations with the owners/chefs! i was delighted to have something elegant and delicious like this on the eastern shore. i did phone up for a takeaway pizza recently and was told to wait an hour, so i didn't - so i agree, i hope they improve this, because they deserve to succeed! if only so the eastern shore retains a wonderful restaurant. and to see those gorgeous italian succeed.

sir grumpy said...

Thanks Christina,

We were around that area today and didn't know.
You always com,e back to Chinese food, so we may dive in on Saturday,
Last night we had spagbol at home but using good bottled sauce and pasta turned it into a great treat.

Blowie said...

"bottled sauce, a real treat"

Rolls eyes!

The Mill restaurant in Hobart gets a real kicking from the nations top reviewer in the Weekend Australian today-time for them to take a long hard look at what they do-and whats with ice cream sundaes the only dessert offering, what are we in? kindergarten?

richard said...

geez the fallout from the lethlean review is wide's all over twitter and facebook.

i think its crisis time in tas, we fall so short it's quite embarrassing.

we have to lift our game!

Rita said...

I'm 100% with you Richard. The fallout has been way bigger than I expected, and interesting to observe. I started writing something about it on Saturday after I read Lethlean's review, but stopped halfway through as it became obvious there was way more involved than just reading a bad review in the paper, and commenting on it! I intend finishing my piece, and will add it to this blog when done.

Christina said...

Another fantastic night at Cugini last night! Three generations left very pleased. Tried some pasta last night and it was wonderful. The gnocchi was to die for, melt in the mouth stuff! And as always fantastic service, and peanut butter icecream to take home!!!
Keep up the work guys.

Hannah said...

I think this restaurant is amazing! I don't think there is any issues I don't mind waiting an hour for my food when at Cugini's it's yummy! My family a regular customers and we get welcomed nicely every time (like it's our house). I love Cunginis and I think it is the most amazing restaurant ever. And it is my favourite restaurant to go to :)