There is no better way to experience a foreign culture than to immerse yourself in its cuisine. Why? Because food brings people together and it’s in these moments of togetherness that we are exposed to culture in its purest form. It‘s in the expression on people’s faces; the smile in their eyes when they greet each other. You hear the tone in their voice while they share their stories, morals, and beliefs with each other. You witness the celebration of traditions, music, and individual style. Sitting around a table together, it’s easy to experience a natural, unedited culture other than your own.
I was once invited to stay with a local family in Tuscany. Although they didn‘t speak English, it had little impact on what was one of the most memorable nights of my life. I perched on the kitchen bench while the grandfather stirred his pasta sauce, nattering away to me in Italian, as if I understood every word. He then took the family sized pot of pasta and plonked it on a table, set up on the patio under the stars. The laughter was contagious as stories were shared and glasses were clinked. It was the most lively, theatrical night around a table I’d ever had. The grandfather’s homemade pasta had brought together four generations and it was in that moment I realised I was experiencing a true Italian culture, brought to together by food.
That was the feeling I had when I walked through the doors of Baduzzi. An Italian inspired restaurant that arches itself under the slogan ‘The Food of the People’. And that is just what it is. It was the first weekend after lockdown and the tables were filling faster than the red wine was pouring. Michael Dearth, the heart and soul behind the restaurant, was leading table talk between tables of guests. It seemed like he already knew everyone, but really he was representing a culture that was the inspiration behind one of the top Italian Restaurants in Auckland.
Their Crayfish Meatalls are without a doubt one of the unique dishes that helped them land a spot on the 2014 Metro Top 50, their first year open. I’m yet to see another restaurant try to tackle the dish and, in all fairness, it is simply unbeatable. Dense, yet tender, crayfish meat rolled amongst herbs and chives, and served on a smoked butter sauce, salsa verde, with a swipe of sweet onion puree.
Saffron and Potato Tortellini. These were not what I was expecting. Sitting between savoury and sweet, fresh tortellini pasta wraps around a fluffy whipped goats curd, on a bed of honey cured sliced almonds. The tanginess of the goat’s curd is beautifully balanced with the honey. As Jared summarised “It’s a show on its own”. It’s just gorgeous.
Agnolotti. Soft parcels of Gurnard and scampi with a sharp punch of celeriac and sweetened by dill and a lemon butter sauce.
The Eggplant Parmigiana is a nod to the simplicity that true Italian food should represent. Meaty eggplant baked in a rich tomato sauce, reduced to perfection. A lighter alternative to a chicken parmigiana. This should be a staple on the order.
Tiramisu a thick and creamy dessert served with crushed meringue, wrapped in a flat waffle, with a hit of Baileys and Amaretto that drew all eyes as it was walked from the kitchen and across the restaurant floor. Beautifully plated and perfect to share.
I would not normally make any plans post an Italian dinner given the risk of needing to roll right into bed. Yet when Italian is done right it‘s fresh and light, and the menu at Baduzzi is just that. Created to encourage long lunching or dinners that play on into the night, Baduzzi has established itself as not only ‘The Food of the People’, but an experience for the people.
Price: Reasonably priced, especially given the quality of the food delivered and the all round experience.
Location: Right in the heart of Wynyard Quater. 10-26 Jellicoe Street, North Wharf, Auckland
Hours: 11:30 – late, Monday to Sunday