Big things come in small packages. This is a saying with which most people are familiar. It is a saying which celebrates substance over appearance, intrinsic value over external attributes and, ultimately, reality over superficiality. Another way to elucidate the inherent sentiment of this popular phrase is to simply state that size does not indicate quality. Take, for example, restaurants – the fact of the matter is that bigger is not always better. Big restaurants often leave diners feeling neglected and anonymous, even marginalised. To experience such disconnect is not, of course, why people choose to dine out. Fortunately, the antidote is simple. Go small. Specifically, if you find yourself in South Yarra, go Cucinetta. Cucinetta, meaning “tiny kitchen” in Italian, is located in a quiet and quaint side street off of hustling and bustling Toorak Road, at 4/3 Murphy Street. The physical space redefines “intimate dining experience”, covering a mere 29 square metres and containing seating for a modest 21 diners. Essentially, Cucinetta is a dinner party disguised as a restaurant, an opportunity to interact and engage with your fellow diners while enjoying some of Melbourne’s best northern Italian cuisine.

Cucinetta treads the path of least resistance via a commitment to simplicity. The economy of space disallows for an on-site freezer or cool room. As a result, the freshest of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood arrive each morning in preparation for the daily lunch and dinner services. Amazingly, only two chefs are responsible for the tiny kitchen’s creative and versatile fare. Currently, five entrées, eight mains, three sides and a manageable selection of desserts and cheese make up the Cucinetta menu, a menu which changes weekly, every Tuesday. Theirs is an uncommercial approach to cooking, dominated by generational recipes and culminating in a presentation requiring all senses to fully appreciate it. Perusing the hand-written menu, one will discover such delights as lightly fried calamari with homemade mayo, bresaola carpaccio and button mushrooms in taleggio fondue and croutons, for starters. Next, your generously portioned main might include handmade pumpkin-and-Grana ravioli with Cucinetta’s ragu tradizionale, artisan linguine all’aragosta, duck breast with Kiipfler potatoes and red wine jus or a salmon fillet al cartoccio, meaning salmon that has been baked in paper or foil. Complement the above with a Caprese salad of Roma tomatoes, burrata cheese and basil oil and/or silverbeet with parmesan cheese, and you are nearly there. You still must navigate the dolci and cheese offerings, which is no mean feat. With tiramisu, traditional Sicilian cannoli, pannacotta, pecorino al tartufo, gorgonzola and taleggio all vying for your attention, possibly the best advice is to simply close your eyes and point…and then point again.

Cucinetta, South Yarra


Cucinetta, South Yarra


Cucinetta, South Yarra


Cucinetta’s wine list is equally short and sweet and predominantly Italian – no surprise there. The wine list includes seven whites by the glass, 11 by the bottle, seven reds by the glass, 14 by the bottle, two rosés, one prosecco and one champagne. Done. Easy. Do not, however, allow the simplicity of the wine list fool you, as within such simplicity, there exist some extraordinarily complicated wines. The one that immediately comes to mind is the 2003 Gaja ‘Sori-Tildin-Langhe’ Nebbiolo from Piemonte. Accordingly, “The rich body, subtle texture and fine, ripe tannins are typical for this wine of great finesse, the quintessential expression of the land and the Nebbiolo grape.” The personal, friendly, knowledgeable and attentive service team is on hand to provide food-wine pairing advice, as well as a detailed description of the daily food selections. And, as a side note, if you are a beginner or amateur Italian speaker, the Cucinetta staff will give you plenty of opportunities to finely tune your comprehension. Cucinetta is the real deal, a genuine gem of the local dining culture. If ever there was a doubt, this restaurant proves that big things do, in fact, come in small packages. Bookings are essential.   

Lifestyle & Design

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