The Italian term “produzione artigianale” may be literally translated into English as “artisan production”. Unfortunately, when one requires an in-depth understanding of the term, this literal translation proves to be helplessly shallow. To fully appreciate the more subtle nuances of the term, the elements of an unsurpassed attention to detail and the passion and pride of culture need to be considered, as well. In other words, “produzione artigianale” is more spiritual and energetic than it is material. It is something that must be experienced to be fully understood. Welcome to South Yarra dining institution Caffé e Cucina.
Located at 581 Chapel Street, Caffé e Cucina opened its doors on August 16, 1988, with the intention of recreating the great restaurants found throughout the most famous cities of Italy. For over 30 years, this much-loved restaurant has consistently contributed to the evolution of Australian café culture. In fact, it arguably may have introduced the concept of genuine Italian hospitality to Melbourne. The small tables, dim lights, yellow walls, vintage posters and thick accents create a warm and welcoming environment that magically transports patrons straight to the backstreets of Venice, Rome, Florence and Milan. Of course, like all rich and rewarding experiences, a visit to Caffé e Cucina is not without risk – quite frankly, once you enter, you may not want to leave.
Despite its modest size, the premise offers a variety of otherworldly spaces in which to enjoy Caffé e Cucina’s version of “produzione artigianale”. Downstairs is tinged with the comings-and-goings of the waiters and punctuated by the sound of the occasional and enthusiastically delivered “Ciao, bello!” For those wishing to surround themselves with the renowned and lively busyness of Chapel Street, guests have the option of dining al fresco. The upper floor is available for larger groups and private functions. Last but most certainly not least, the exclusive and romantic Romeo and Giulietta balcony is the perfect location for all of those unforgettable occasions. One might even go as far as to say that the balcony is saturated with a boon of good fortune, considering the innumerable marriage proposals that have been successfully delivered there and the resulting anniversaries celebrated thereafter.
Long-time Caffé e Cucina patrons can attest to the fact that little has changed within the establishment over the years; however, the all-pervading love of hospitality has continued to grow immeasurably.
Caffé e Cucina
Caffé e Cucina
Upon arrival, guests settle in with freshly baked bread and top-quality extra-virgin olive oil. Once the appetite has been whetted, the authentic Italian culinary journey begins. For starters, choose from a selection of antipasti which includes Carpaccio di Manzo – beef carpaccio served with baby king mushrooms, truffle mayo, bread croutons and micro-herbs; Gamberoni alla Griglia – grilled king prawns with garlic, chilli, basil and lime mayo; and Fiori di Zucca “Cacio e Pepe” – zucchini flowers “in pastella” filled with ricotta, pecorino and black pepper, served with saffron mayo. Next, the traditional pasta course, or Primi, beckons. Enjoy the bounty of traditional flavours packed into the Spaghettoni al Granchio – artisan spaghettoni with crab meat, cherry tomatoes, lobster bisque, garlic, chilli and basil; and/or the Tagliatelle al Ragù di Agnello – homemade tagliatelle with lamb ragù and grated Pecorino Romano. Finally, the Secondi – or main course – celebrates the land as well as the sea. The Vitello alla Milanese…dal 1988 – an herb-crumbed 400g veal cutlet on the bone served with rocket, radicchio, orange and fennel; and the Barramundi alla Mediterranea – a pan-fried barramundi fillet cooked in cherry tomato-and-garlic broth with baby capers, Ligurian black olives and bread crostini – are certain to deliver your senses all for which they had hoped…and more. A contorni (sides) menu is also available and includes two salads, potatoes prepared two different ways, pan-fried broccolini and sautéed spinach. Of course, if a sweet conclusion is required, the waiters will provide an appropriate and satisfying selection – because that is what they do.
The team at Caffé e Cucina is perpetually driven by the clear intention to provide great traditional food, attentive and friendly service and consistency from start to finish, and it prides itself on achieving these goals year after year. If you have not already, it is high time that you make Caffé e Cucina your very own little piece of Italy.
Caffé e Cucina
Caffé e Cucina