Tuesday, March 15, 2011

O' Sarracino - Restaurant Review

3-5 Mt Eden Terrace,
Eden Terrace

Ph 09 309 3740

When you're a traveler you learn to associate food with location.  Memories of Bangers and Mash in an English Country pub, Grilled Sardines by the Mediterranean in Portugal, dumplings in Hong Kong, Burgers in California.  Food becomes much more than a form of sustenance.  It develops an identity, a character, a story.

Perhaps that's why O'Sarracino is such a special place.  The Napoletan-Italian Restaurant that has been in Eden Tce for 3 years now is like a slice out of Italy.  It takes me back.  Around the world Italy was the country which had the most affect on me.  I fell in love with the country, the culture, the art and the food.  Their casual but passionate approach to food, love, family, and life.  Part of any cooks journey is learning to bring out a food's natural flavor, and the Italians do this oh so well.

The proprietor of the establishment, Gaetano Spinosa, was of course the guest chef for Episode 4 of the second series of Masterchef.  Contestants were asked to take the judges to Italy, and Gaetano, as the resident Don of Italian cuisine, was there to help the contestants remain on the correct flight path.

Having already won Cuisine Magazine's best specialist restaurant award O'Sarracino is already firmly on the culinary map.  However, been privy to Gaetano's talents before his appearance on National Television I decided it would be best to check out the home of his passion before the rest of Auckland starts turning up on his doorstep.  The 1st wedding anniversary was upon me and so without hesitation I made a reservation.

Antipasti Take 1
We walk into a busy, boisterous but relaxed restaurant.  Most of the tables are occupied and there is a sea of smiling faces and the drone of dinner conversations, suggesting happy food and happy people.  It appears there may not be many uncomfortable silences in this restaurant.  Any pause for feeding is quickly followed with an ooohhh, or an mmmmmm, or a burp if there are too many Westies out that evening.

Antipasti Take 2
Welcomed into the restaurant we are quickly guided to our waiting table.  The decor and surroundings are simple yet the room is full of ambiance.  Some people might think that you need soft lighting and a feature wall to create ambiance but lets cut the crap.  Those things are nice, but simply a foil.  What we really want when we go out is great food.  Great food leads to great times.  Great times lead to great people.  Great people lead to great ambiance.  Great ambiance leads to.........hang on, back to the food.
It is without hesitation that we order the Antipasto della Casa to start.  What better way to get an indication of the restaurant than their own selection of the best flavours of Italy.  And boy, we were not disappointed.  Within a few moments out comes a plethora of pocket sized treats.  Deep fried eggplant, capsicum, courgettes, prawns, squid, olives, cured meats, breads, tomatoes, basil, mozarella......everything you could ever want on a platter.  And the quality!  Every mouth-watering morsel was better than the next.

There were two real stars on this platter.  The first one being the Casatiello.  A rich dense bread stuffed with salami, pancetta and cheese.  A typical Napoletana bread, Gaetano's version is dense and full of savory goodness.  Drizzled with the best of olive oils it is so good that I have to ask Gaetano if I can take a loaf home for my breakfast!  Also gathering more than it's fair share of attention in this platter of perfection is a wonderful combination of breasola (cured beef) with ricotta and more ample lashings of olive oil.  The bite of the beef is washed back by the creaminess of the ricotta and held together with the clean, almost peppery flavor of the olive oil.

I'm going to find it hard ordering an antipasti from anywhere else after this experience.  Mock Italian Restaurants of Auckland beware.

Snapper with a Tomato sauce
Sumptuous starters were followed by tasty mains.  My Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach served with Gorgonzola and Walnut Sauce had perfectly al dente pasta covered in a super rich sauce.  If anything the Ravioli filling was a bit lost with the strength of the sauce but the combination of the Walnuts and Gorgonzola had me constantly working towards another forkful.  Kelly's Snapper with Cherry Tomato, Prawn, Olive and caper Sauce was perfectly cooked.  The fish flaking gently with the merest motion.  The sweet and sour combination of the tomatoes, capers and olives worked perfectly together.

Sumptuous Ravioli
Walking around the tables is the man himself.  Gaetano not only promises to deliver you food from the heart, but he ensures that you know that's exactly where it's coming from by presenting the food directly to your table.

Desserts on offer seem a little less inspiring than the courses that have preceded it.  With little options on the actual menu it's a case of sampling what is in the pastry cabinet that particular evening.  Our options are Cannoli, the ricotta stuffed pastry case adorned with pistachio nuts, Panna Cotta and a Chocolate Mousse.  My wife's attempt to have a light sorbet was met with Gaetano's arrival where he insisted that sorbet is boring and she should finish a lovely meal with the 'light' chocolate mousse instead.  She caved into the accent and the charm, and I'm sure she's not the first.

One thing you can always be sure of in a good Italian restaurant is a proper espresso.  So with that and a shot of golden grappa we finish the evening and walk out content, happy and singing Dean Martin.  That's Amore mi amici.  That's Amore.

Food 8/10
Service 8/10
Value 7/10
Overall 8/10

Price for two with wine, coffee and extras $170


  1. 1st! How is it you have 5 blog entries and this is th first I've heard about it??

  2. It's an exclusive club???? I'll have a word with my marketing department, or is it PR? New staff. They're still working out how to use the stapler, let alone notify the whanau.