|Char grilled octopus|
Ciuccio (pronounced Choo Cho) means donkey in Neapolitan dialect apparently and there are donkeys everywhere in the restaurant from the rather Donnie Darko looking motif on the wine glasses to the donkey mural to one side of the bar. There’s a big counter area to sit at which overlooks the semi open kitchen allowing diners to pretty much discard the Mediterranean influenced menu and instead just point at what the chefs are serving up.
|One of the donkey touches – a donkey mural reflected in the mirror at Casa Ciuccio|
Dishes are made for sharing and include tapas style dishes like tiny green Shisito peppers stuffed with delicate white crab meat ($4). I would have liked the boquerones ($9) to actually include more than two boquerones as I love these salty little fish but the accompanying fennel and cucumber salad was crisp and refreshing.
|Boquerones – I would have liked a few more|
Casa Ciuccio’s croquetas ($4 each) were seriously golden and crunchy with creamy innards oozing potato and cheese flecked with Wagyu beef. The Wagyu worked really well in the croquetas but I did find a few gristly bits in mine which was a bit offputting.
The dish of the night was the octopus tentacle ($10) which arrived in a fat coil on the plate. It was crimson on the outside from a wine marinade with a slight char to it from the grill but inside was sweet, bouncy flesh. Casa Ciuccio also has a coal pit where meat is cooked for three hours until it falls apart on your plate. Sure enough, the suckling kid goat ($35) was really moist and tender and was accompanied by a plate of hot, salty roasted potatoes.
|Suckling gig from the charcoal grill|
Given the emphasis on meat at Casa Ciuccio it’s good to be able to report that the vegetable dishes we tried were spot on. Each dish is available in half serves and the roasted zucchini and eggplant was smoky and soft with a dollop of tart labneh to add contrast ($7.50 for half). Another great combination was the pairing of sweet ruby coloured baby beets with rich, creamy buffalo cheese ($8).
|Baby beets and buffalo cheese|
The food was exactly the sort which goes well with a glass or two of wine and the fairly lengthy list featured a lot of international wines as well as local. The complex and berry ripe bottle of Spanish Tempranillo we had was the sort you would expect to pay more for elsewhere. Service was switched on while being in keeping with the casual feel to the place.
|Zucchini, eggplant and labneh|
The atmosphere provoked at Casa Ciuccio by the wonderful cooking was lively and comfortable. It’s a great addition to Gertrude street which is quickly becoming McConnell street (Matt’s brother Andrew McConnell is the co-owner of nearby Cutler and Co and the Builders Arms Hotel. Most importantly it left Sydney-sider Anna seriously impressed.
Details: Casa Ciuccio, 15 Gertrude Street Fitzroy 3065 (Ph 03 8488 8150)
Damage: Pricey. $135 for two with wine.