The small shop next door to Casa Ciuccio has been given a bright white makeover with unobstrusive smatterings of Latino flavour. One wall is dominated by a wine fridge and shelved bottles of local and imported wines. Facing it is a glass counter with a tempting selection of fresh salads, cheeses and house made charcuterie.
You can also choose to eat there and tuck into a super-sized meat or vegeatrian boccadillo (which are normally bite-sized morsels) or a freshly baked meat or vegetarian empanada or Spanish tortilla.
If you are eating in my advice is to sit outside if the weather is mild – the window bench is ridiculously narrow (the width of a dinner plate) so you have to spread your phone and handbag horizontally on the counter and there’s definitely no room to open a newspaper. I imagine it would get quite uncomfortable if you had to perch on a high stool with a stranger edged under your armpit.
I decided to try an empanada ($10) with a couscous side salad ($6) as well as a slice of tortilla ($8) (‘are you very hungry?’ asked the waiter just in case!). The empanada had a delicious flaky pastry and was amply filled with chorizo and provolone – I particularly liked the rough handmade look of it and if you’re not very hungry it could easily be shared between two with some salad.
I don’t normally get very excited by salad but this one was a revelation – it tasted like Barbecue Shapes! I don’t know what magical seasoning they tossed through the couscous or the cashews and pistachios but the smokey/salty/spicy combination was so good that I would happily have eaten it as a meal.
The picture above looks like a beer and apple pie but it was actually a slice of the tortilla, with large chunks of potato cemented by a fluffy egg mixture and served with a liberal ladle of creamy aioli. I had it with a glass of iced tea – it’s not on the drinks menu but if you ask nicely a staff member may be able to make one up for you. And they’ve had so many requests for iced tea that it may end up on the menu in future.
As I’d eaten the equivalent of two lunch dishes I didn’t have room to try the sweets but the counter is currently stocking a fig and almond torta, some small Spanish-style petit fours to go with your coffee or non-Spanish brownie.
Apparently Cantina della Casa will be providing takeaway meals as soon as next week if the kitchen is comfortable with the current output, so I look forward to sampling more of their delicious, well-priced food. In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to perch myself on that size zero window bench.
Cantina della Casa, 13 Gertrude St, Fitzroy +61 3 9090 7870
Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat-Sun 10am-5pm