Licensed/BYO $-$$
34 Cambridge Road, Bellerive
03) 6244 2727
Open: Tue to Sun 5pm to 10pm. Takeaways.

I think Italians must be born with an extra gene – a hospitality gene. Whether it’s everywhere around Italy, or here in town, they do the hospitality thing so much better, and seem to have a lot more fun doing it, than anyone else.

Think of the welcome you get from Angelo Fraraccio and his team at Da Angelos, the buzz and smiles at Simon Robustelli’s Solo Pasta, Dino and Graziano at the Don, Bruno at Maldini’s, Dom at Paesano and even the ever effervescent Marty Zucco – the list goes on. And back – to the godfather of them all, the late, great Umberto Tucceri of Don Camillo and Mondo Picollo fame, Romeo Cattaruzza at Mona Lisa, Sergio Simonetto and the Luciano, Corredetti and Ghandinni families before that. Whatever their food, they, and the attitude they imbue in their staff, always make it taste better.

We now have another in similar vein, Cugini, opened in February by cousins Marco and Alfonso Giusti, Marco after five years at the pizza ovens at Ristorante Da Angelo, and Alfonso after selling his part in Solo Pasta and Pizza and travelling the world for two years. And, on the night of our visit, there was another Hobart hospitality face on the floor, the very accomplished and professional Joe Zucco, also returning after a few years travelling the world.

Cugini is where Les Trois Etoiles used to be along the Bellerive Quay. While the cousins have given it a makeover with simple Italianate wall decorations and a new takeaway bar, the tables are still as tightly spaced as ever. And it’s been an instant hit, booked out and buzzing at seven o’clock, tables turning over at eight and groups of people still arriving on a Wednesday night at nine thirty.

Since we were at Cugini on the rebound from a less-than-satisfactory few dishes at the Three Little Ducks a few doors down the street, we didn’t get to widely sample the menu. But the cotoletta was real veal and beautifully tender, the Napoletana sauce deliciously fresh and the lasagne, according to my wife, was the best she’s had in Hobart plus she almost swooned over the macadamia panna cotta with caramelised banana. And, with the experience of Alfonso and sous chef Patrick Edwards in the kitchen and Marco at the pizza oven, I have every confidence that the rest of the menu would be as enjoyable as was our meal.

Plus, as I said, it’s the buzz and the happy and smiling, Italianized attitude and service of the place that makes it all taste better.

The wine list is short but well-chosen and reasonably priced (BYO $7/bottle) and, as you would expect, the coffee is excellent.

Antipasto $18; natural oysters $14/$25, pasta $15 to $21; pizza $11/$13/$17/$22; lasagne $15/$19; cotoletta $26; desserts $12. Takeaways a few dollars cheaper

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