Somebody save me... i think i am sinking into the Cugini well!
Tempt me like this (words & photos responsible) and chances are, my resistance vanishes. I just had to leap to Club Street one evening to experience that stupefying Frutti di Mare dish.
Whenever a 'Marinara red & hearty' craving strikes, i know exactly what i desire.. It has to be fresh handmade pasta cooked aldente or slightly beyond, coalesced with a rich flavorful tomato & herb sauce, fresh seafood and a sprinkle of ground black pepper to seal the deal. Amateurish renditions would only leave it awkwardly hanging.
If you still remember these guys from Robertson Walk (formerly known as Cugini Ristorante), they've now relocated as a casual Trattoria in Club Street. Much ceremoniousness axed but a new comfortable, laid-back charm exudes from the Ristorante-to-Trattoria transformation.
When food comes to talk, chef-owners Mauro & Gerri don't disappoint.
As usual, nothing better activates my stomach than a warm yeasty homemade hunk. We nibbled on soft dense whites and decorous focaccia cubes centered with cute tomato depressions. What's most interesting, is their unusually diluted tomato-based dip that lends a veneer overlay to the bread.
This was it. Cite Seafood Pasta to the waiter and he'll nod.
Just look at that brilliant sauce yelling phenomenal. A unique seafood-enriched flavor beneath sheens of country italian notes, olives & full-bodied tomato goodness i fell for. It tasted so so robust and complex, like as if a million ingredients had gone in there to mystify you.... practically impossible to decipher.
The chef adorns it with (paltry) pieces of mackerel, squid & shrimp and made the sauce ultra thick in consistency for close-knitted coating. The homemade spaghetti was cooked firm to the bite, hitting aldente almost immaculately. I twirled & twirled, scraped & scraped until everything was polished off. Delizioso.
This is indeed an addiction.
If pasta happens to not be your cup of tea, Cugini's risotto is another made-to-order alternative.
Rejoice when restaurants notify you of a 15-minute wait for your risotto, cos likely you'll be getting grains cooked from scratch just after you say "one risotto please". And this is a determining sign of quality. Pre-cooked (& reheated) risottos are habitually overcooked mushy or congee-ish, which puts the honourable dish to shame. Yet unfortunately due to the grains' fortified nature, it is unfeasible for most restaurants to accede to the demanding duration.
Cugini's Risotto mari e monti ($22.90) is clearly a lighter version, creamed simply by stock and the natural starches of italian riso. You don't get much creamy-cheesy gratification but the result is comparably palatable. Prime issue: too little seafood again, almost too beggarly to uncover.
We wrapped up with a White Chocolate Panna Cotta ($7.90) with raspberry sauce. Soft jelly-like cream pudding with a pronounced body of white chocolate. Beware this can get potentially gerlat if not for the small size.
one last closing shot bcos this is one darn good pasta!
I wonder why despite its popularity & credibility (almost like a signature!), the seafood pasta is still absent from the menu. Is it not available everyday, or are they trying to create a mirage of exclusivity?
Anyways. Since we cannot rewind it, the other 3Rs apply. I'm gonna have to Recollect, Revisit & Repeat it. Soon.
Cugini Trattoria Pizzeria
87 Club St