By Catherine McGregor. Photos by Ken Downie.
Ten years ago The Grove brought to Auckland a new kind of fine dining – indulgent but not overblown, meticulous but never stuffy. Now owner Michael Dearth hopes to do the same for Italian food. Baduzzi, just opened at North Wharf in Wynyard Quarter, is classic Italian by way of downtown Manhattan, the interior a masculine mix of olive leather, burnished copper and dark wood.
Dearth says Baduzzi’s mix of classic and Italian-American dishes is the Italian immigrant experience in microcosm. Since Roman times Italians have been assimilating and energising new cultures, he says, “like gypsies backed by an army”. But it’s an intensely personal project too. Growing up in a big Italian family in small-town Connecticut, money was often in short supply. Economical dishes that could feed a lot of hungry mouths, like hearty polpette – meatballs served in the Italian style, without spaghetti – were a staple. The menu here at Baduzzi (the name is a Sicilian dialect word for meatballs) dedicates an entire section to polpette, from the traditional (beef with onion gravy and salsa verde) to the adventurous (Coromandel crayfish with savoy cabbage and braised chickpeas).
Baduzzi is open from breakfast (when the menu will be “something hot, something cold, something savoury and something sweet”) through lunch (eat in, or buy a meatball sub or chicken Parmigiana sandwich to devour in the Silo Park sunshine), and then on until late. Dinner prices are remarkably affordable: primi pasta and vegetarian dishes hover around the $15 mark; secondi mains (pulled milk-fed goat; flat iron steak tagliata; chicken saltimbocca) are all under $30. The extensive wine list, split by price into “forties “, “sixties”, “eighties” and the $100+ “big boys”, is an eclectic selection of the best of Old and New Worlds. It’s easy to tell how much Dearth, a sommelier by training, enjoyed creating the list from scratch. And it’s not just the wine – everything about Baduzzi has him buzzing. “Apart from my wedding and the birth of my kids, opening The Grove was the best experience of my life. And now I get to do it all over again.”
Cnr Jellicoe Street & Fish Lane
Ph 09 309 9339