A New Zealand-owned, Italian-inspired restaurant that's genuine, generous and honest.
With the closure of one of Wellington's favourite establishments, Matterhorn, local owner and restauranteur Sean Marshall presents his new venture: Monte Cervino. While there's a visible Italian influence throughout, it's not necessarily an Italian restaurant. Rather, "a New Zealand one whose influences spread back to Italy — the original homeland."
Knocking down the space that was the old Lone Star, the result is transformative. Walking in, you'll notice the large, locked and loaded bar to the left, a bright and spacious dining area to the right and a gorgeous floor to ceiling wine wall in the centre. Large round wooden tables beckon you and your family or mates to come and sit a spell, while the more intimate booths for that special occasion decorate the fringe of the room. With the smooth, waltzing voice of Ella Fitzgerald setting a relaxed tone, this is the place where you come to have a vino, a hearty meal, and enjoy some good company.
The menu is divided into sections: salumi, pizetta, antipasti, primi (pastas, gnocchi), secondi (meats), contorni (vegetables and salads), and dolci (desserts). I recommend starting off with some of the house-cured salumis. Think: coppa ($15) and finocchiona ($15), or for a larger group, try a range of Italian salumi with the kitchen selection ($32).
Monte Cervino's selection and use of ingredients is spectacular, and this shines through in the antipasti platters. Certainly capturing the spirit of Italy, you'll find chicken liver parfait, tuna crudo, calamari fritti and eggplant arancini among other favourites.
Be careful not to order too much though, the mains are exactly what you'd expect your nonna to serve up. With a variety of gorgeous flavour combinations, you'll be spoilt for choice. Hefty helpings of ricotta gnocchi served in duck leg broth with walnut and watercress ($26) or perhaps spaghetti in a crayfish bisque with snapper, saffron, and fennel ($26) will vie for your tastebuds. What's best, the gnocchi and pastas are all made fresh, in house. Feeling particularly carnivorous? Try the glorious wood roasted chicken, seasoned with fermented garlic, rosemary and lemon with grilled zucchini. Succulent, supple and bathing in a pool of its rich juices, the chicken screams comfort food.
If you really want to push the boat out, there's a 35 oz Bistecca alla Florentina steak ($110) on offer if you're feeling up to the challenge. Don't fret if you're not in the mood to eat a whole carcass, they also have the standard selections of 7 oz Wagyu Bavett ($32) and 10 oz Wakanui rump ($34).
With desserts to suit your sweet tooth or cleanse your palate, you'll be leaving totally satisfied. Perhaps a creamy panna cotta with campari nectarines ($14) or a flourless chocolate and olive oil cake ($14) will do the trick.
The quality of ingredients make Monte Cervino the restaurant lower Tory Street needed, and it should come as no surprise. With the same impeccable standards that Matterhorn was renowned for, you'll eat well, drink well, and feel like family. In the words of the owner, Monte Cervino is, "genuine, generous, and honest."
Image: Seb Abante.