Tuesday5:00 – 9:00 pm.
Wednesday5:00 – 9:00 pm.
Thursday5:00 – 9:00 pm.
Friday5:00 – 9:00 pm.
Saturday5:00 – 9:00 pm.
1 Tees Street
Thames Street, Oamaru’s main drag, effectively ends at Cucina’s doorstep. To us, this just makes sense as we can’t think of a better place for foodies to wind up at. Here flavours of Italy, Spain, the Mediterranean and South America are created with local Waitaki ingredients and served with some of the most genuine Kiwi hospitality around.
While Cucina has earned a host of awards since opening in 2016 it remains a ‘come as you are’ kind of spot. Owners Yanina and Pablo, originally from Argentina, wanted to create a restaurant that they would want to eat at and to showcase the flavours they grew up with at the same time. It’s a winning combination and you’ll soon see why.
Enter the historic building and you’ll first notice the lush greenery that fills every corner of this special restaurant. Yanina is an expert indoor gardener and has created a true environment for visitors to dine in. Her colourful jungle gives a nice preview of what’s to come - plates that are similarly bright, fresh and carefully created.
Wander down the hallway and you might get a glimpse of the dry aged meat cabinet or the ‘pasta room’ where the team handcraft all of the pastas that grace the menu. Pablo, Cucina’s head chef, is constantly changing the menu to reflect what’s in season. With over 80 menu variations in just four years, there’s always something new to try at Cucina.
Fresh pasta dishes here are anything but run of the mill and have featured combinations such as beetroot gemelli with charred beetroot, chunky spinach kale pesto, chilli, garlic, torn mozzarella, fresh herbs, parmesan and toasted hazelnuts. The deep purple noodles, colourful local vegetables and buffalo mozzarella ate perfectly together. Like every dish Pablo creates, it featured a balance of salty, sweet, acidic and umami flavours.
Cucina’s 55 day aged rib eye is a local favourite and the product of the Waitaki’s excellent sheep and beef rearing landscape. Pablo uses a charcoal grill and seasonal vegetables like kumara, asparagus, smoked sofrito and black garlic potato’s to highlight the rich, meaty flavours. On the ‘Mains’ list you’ll also find dishes like local Havoc Pork filet served with Oamaru wilted greens, roasted fennel, smoked sour cream, carrot puree, smoked paprika oil, pickled carrots and pork crackling powder. Again, every plate offers balance and beautiful plating - a total celebration of local fare. Cucina’s ‘Trust the Chef’ menu with wine pairing options makes it easy to try it all.
In addition to building a well-loved menu, Yanina and Pablo have also raised their young family alongside the business and assembled a Cucina team and whanau that make everyone feel welcome. The know many of their customers and are some of Oamaru’s most authentic ambassadors.
If you love Cucina, and it’s hard not to, be sure to also visit Pablo and Yanina’s other restaurants. Tee’s Street Cafe is located just around the corner for brunch and Del Mar, down by the water, is a great family dinner spot.
Words by Olivia Sisson & Photography by Nancy Zhou
1 Tees Street
Deja Moo & Harbour Street Bakery
4 Harbour Street, South Hill, Oamaru
Ice cream and carbs, the perfect combo. You’ll find loaves on the left and scoops on the right.
Everything’s made from scratch with a lot of love and zero nasties. This stuff is famous because it’s
9 Harbour Street
Not quite a gallery or a studio, Grainstore is an emporium of local artist Donna Demente’s larger than life paintings and sculptures and the ephemera that informs them. Climb up the stairs and be immersed in her creative world.
Harbour Street, Oamaru
Ōamaru’s Heritage Precinct is an ode to tradition. In this way it only makes sense that it’s home to Craftwork - an award winning, small scale, Belgian brewery run by brewing couple, Lee-Ann Scotti and Michael O’Brien.
The Criterion Hotel
3 Tyne St, Oamaru
First established in 1877, The Criterion has re-emerged in her original form as a classic pub. She’s got everything you need, with Speights to Craftworks on tap, comforting pub grub and accommodation upstairs.