Phone: (09) 309 9339
Rating out of 10: Food: 8, Service: 8, Value: 8, Ambience: 8
At last there's somewhere exciting to dine down at North Wharf in the Wynyard Quarter.
Owner Michael Dearth, the brains behind The Grove in St Patrick's Square, has dedicated Baduzzi, in the posh new ASB building, to his Italian roots.
There are photographs of his great-grandparents and his grandparents on the menu, which bears the words "a tavola non s'invecchia" (at the table you don't grow old). It certainly made us feel young alongside people set for a great night out. The atmosphere is elegant, loud but enjoyable, the menu exquisite, the selection of mainly Italian wine excellent.
We started with the polpette or meatballs, which, only a few weeks after Baduzzi's opening, have achieved rave status. The crayfish polpette arrived in a creamy sauce, sweetened with savoy cabbage, and were absolutely stunning.
Light and delicate enough to let the crayfish shine through, they are the mark of true genius.
The wagyu beef polpette, in their onion gravy with salsa verde, were also a knockout - tender, tasty and again light.
Our other entrees included a plate of delicate wagyu beef tongue decorated with tiny flowers and salsa rossa. If you like tongue, be sure to try this melt-in-the-mouth version, delicately corned, beautifully cooked and sliced so thinly it was a work of art.
Just one thing to remember, the regular polpette serving is three meatballs, so if there are four in your party, be sure to ask for one each.
Our other entree (actually a main course), the fish stew for Oliver, was one of the most fragrant that I've ever tried, with its hint of crayfish, and certainly the prettiest - again decorated with flowers and curls of green.
One of the nice things about Baduzzi's service is that even though there isn't a great deal of difference in plate size between entrees and main courses, they bring your meal in two servings, whisking away your entree plates and cutlery, smoothing down the table, checking your wine, before moving on, making the evening more special.
By the time our table was tidied and set up for bigger things to come, Baduzzi was really revving up on this dark and stormy Sunday night. Probably not a great place for a heart-to-heart conversation, but marvellous if you want to soak up the atmosphere and go home pumped up with laughter, fun, and in our case saffron gnocchi, rabbit ravioli, chicken saltimbocca and lasagnette (tripe lasagne).
All were excellent and, especially for me, the latter. Apparently Italians don't boil tripe to a soggy pulp as my mother did (and which I loved) but serve it fried and chewy, which turns it into something entirely different - and delicious, too. The rabbit ravioli, tagliatelli with fine-sliced paua and the chicken saltimbocca were also glorious. As with so many dishes, the saltimbocca was served soft and succulent, but sadly in this case, way undercooked for safety. Back it had to go.
Everyone, from our waiter to the chef and maitre d' apologised, offered us another properly cooked dish and didn't charge us for it, which was just as it should have been. Baduzzi had been open only a few weeks, so I'm sure it won't happen again. Indeed, I didn't want to stop eating that fabulous saltimbocca.
Desserts were splendid, too, especially the tiramisu, served in a pastry cylinder that split open to reveal that glorious mix of chocolate, custard and cream. A triumphant end to an exciting dinner.
Our meal: $289.50 for six entree-sized and main-sized sharing plates.
Our wine: A short but skilfully created, mainly Italian list from one of our keenest Italian wine experts. Well worth taking his suggestions.
Verdict: A new star that lifts Wynyard Quarter dining to a whole new level of sophistication. Baduzzi is reasonably priced, with excellent service and authentic Italian food that stretches from marvellous meatballs to rabbit, tripe and tongue. They don't take bookings except for large parties, and it's flat out most nights, so go early.