At the risk of jinxing myself, I've realized that I've never had a bad meal whenever I'm out with Lips. She, in addition to being "the perfect girl", is my good luck charm for meals. Notwithstanding her fabulous company and sparkling conversation, our meals have always been nothing short of fantastic.
We had our monthly meet-up at Cugini, and it's been years since I last dined here. The place is still filled to the brim even on a Thursday night, a hive of bustling diners, but luckily for us, we managed to score a table upstairs, away from the din so we could yak away.
Cugini serves up a veritable range of Italian food, but you should sample some of their seafood offerings, because the owners originate from Southern Italy and they really know their seafood there. The food's here rustic and hearty, and ambience's charmingly casual, so it's little wonder why it's such a popular choice to unwind after work.
We started off with the Carpaccio di Manzo con Rabarbaro Candito e Salsa di Grana ($20.90), paper thin raw beef cured drizzled with rhubarb confit and Parmesan mayonnaise, and topped with a bunch of arugula and softly poached quail's egg.
The Calamari Fritti ($16.90), thick chewy rings of fresh squid battered lightly and fried to a crisp, was served alongside mayonnaise and salsa.
An insider tip (it's really more of an open secret really) is to order an off-menu item that's apparently a popular favourite with Cugini's regulars, the Frutti di Mare ($29.90). The generously portioned seafood: squid, clams, fish, and prawns were swimmingly fresh, interlaced with al dente paste and tossed in a piquant and lightly spiced tomato sauce.
The Raviolo al Tartufo e Patate con Burro alle Noce e Grana ($26.90) potato pasta pockets stuffed with dreamy truffle and dressed in luscious nutty walnut butter and strips of Parmesan was awesome. A little stingy with the portioning but delicious nonetheless. This would do better as an appetizer.
The Calzone Pizza ($25.90), stuffed with mushrooms, roasted ham, a hard-boiled egg, and the obligatory tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, was also a hit.From the wood-fired thin chewy crust to the generous ingredients, this was very commendable.
I was glad to discover that the Risotto Mare e Monti ($29.90) was still the same as before. Perfectly al dente arborio rice infused with the seafresh flavours of the plentiful seafood while earthy mushrooms grounded the dish from being cloying.
Unfortunately, the complimentary Bread was also the same as before, cold and a little dry though not rock hard.
Cugini Trattoria Pizzeria
87 Club Street
Tel: 6221 3791
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm; 6pm to 11pm