I've recently become hooked on the Netflix series Master of None. Written and starred by comedian Aziz Ansari, anybody and everybody should watch this show. It's topical, it's inclusive, and it's got a lot of foodie talk in it. The main character makes the best homemade spaghetti carbonara from scratch in one episode with a pasta-maker gifted to him by his girlfriend, and eventually goes on a hiatus to Italy where he completes an apprenticeship in pasta-making. Are you picking up what I'm getting at? I want to talk to you about home-made pasta. More specifically I want to talk to you about Cotto, the pop-up that's been housed by K'Rd's 69 for the last few months.
I hope that by the time you start reading this, there is still a few weeks left before Cotto packs up its pasta-making shop for good. The team behind Cotto are serving the real deal Italian food, the stuff you think is Italian food but is almost never served at so-called Italian restaurants. You'll be lucky enough to find things you've never seen on a menu, in Auckland anyway. We started with the roasted olives with orange and fennel (the vegetable as oppose their springy green top-halves) and farinata. The former were salty, shrivelled delights contrasted with puckersome pickled fennel, the latter thin crispy pancakes of chickpea flour, golden brown and warm with rosemary. So far so good.
Whilst there are main menu items such as porchetta (that's Italian for roast pork for you) we were here for the pasta. The boys plumped for the maltagliati with beef check ragu whilst Emma opted for the kumara gnocchi and I the rotolo. Imagine a swiss-roll if you will, of fresh egg pasta rolled into flat sheets and wrapped around a filling of porcini mushrooms, silverbeet and Luganega sausage. Hearty without being cloying, it is finished with a cream sauce infused with the purest essence of porcini, which had me all but licking my plate. Ok I may have dragged a finger or two across my plate and licked it. Emma's gnocchi were exemplary, soft and cloud like, contrasted beautifully with the texture of walnuts and fragrant with a gorgonzola sauce; my only complaint was the sauce was a bit on the watery side. The boys' beef cheek ragu a more obvious, albeit well executed, choice.
Now accustomed to finish my meals with a little dolce, we ordered the marsala pear with whipped ricotta and almond for myself, the Bonet chocolate and caramel pudding for Emma, and in a continued show of male solidarity, Seb and Elliott ordered the vanilla panna cotta with burnt orange and rhubarb. Oh how I dream of that panna cotta, which is truely one of the best things I've ever eaten. The subtle creamy sweetness of the panna cotta was offset by the slightly bitter orange sauce, accompanied by orange's best friend, an astringent rhubarb compote. It's simple, and perfect. My marsala pear was pretty good and very Italian, although not wholly to my tastes. The marsala sauce was dark, sticky and woodsy, lightened by the versatile whipped ricotta, with textural interest added by the amaretto crumbs. Emma's chocolate pudding was just as it sounds, with a not particularly impressive caramel sauce and a bed of mascarpone to contrast the rich chocolate tones; the pudding's texture was a little cakey, perhaps a bit overcooked.
Cotto's K'Rd pop-up is a fun and exciting tour of Italian food. I hope that the good reception from this short-lived venture will be followed by a more permanent place to call home.
375 Karangahape Rd
Following publication of this review Cotto announced they will continue cooking out of 69 for the unforeseen future, rejoice!