I was stoked as to discover Divino Bistro a little while ago, a surprisingly great Italian eatery on the border of Parnell and the CBD. Only problem is it serves a certain market, I suppose, and isn’t open on weekends.
But I now have another goodie to add to the list, one that IS open every day and with a bit more atmosphere.
(Gallingly, it’s just around the corner from where I used to live a few years ago! I mean, I have no idea if it was even around back then, and I didn’t know good Italian food at that point having not been to Europe yet, so it’s probably a moot point.)
Me Ne Frego on Manukau Road in Epsom, Auckland is an unassuming and unpretentious trattoria. The food is simple, authentic and delicious. Everything I want in an Italian restaurant, basically.
The menus are handwritten on paper and cardboard. The light shades are colanders. The walls are adorned with photos of people eating pasta. The dishes were served with tongs. There are no salt and pepper shakers – or god forbid, Parmesan cheese – on the tables.
We ordered one entree and three mains (which to be frank is not unusual for us two in NZ – but rest assured the portions are actually decent!) and left satiated with dreamy grins on our faces.
The seafood spaghetti was solid, though we had expected full individual pieces of each kind of seafood rather than small, uniform bits. The wild goat ragu was rich without being greasy and totally surpassed expectations. The beef cheek special hit all the right notes – the meat disintegrating under the fork, served in a rich thick sauce with mounds of creamy, herby potato.
There were a few too many whole peppercorns sprinkled throughout the various dishes for our liking, but not unforgivably so.
The lighting was wacky and the presentation nothing to write home about, hence no photos. But trust me, Me Ne Frego is worth a visit or several. We’ll be back.
The way you described those dishes makes me want to gather up my passport. I’ve never been to a foreign country, but always been curious on how real, authentic cuisine holds up against American versions.