Address: 161 Symonds Street
Phone: (09) 302 2061
In September last year, Gina's closed. So sad for so many. And then the punters cheered up again when they realised that the iconic pizza and pasta place had just moved along the street.
This time it's bigger and better and, it has to be said, less raucous. The waiters remained full clothed, or did the night we visited, and seemed less full of bonhomie, or whatever the Italian equivalent is (broggadocio, perhaps?). There were no birthday parties or hens' nights, either.
We started with a Peroni beer for Bill and a glass of pinot grigio for me, while we decided how much of the menu we could decently get through. Warm bread and dips for me then, and soup for Bill. The breads were barely warm, but the dips compensated - onion jam plus two I could not quite identify but still enjoyed.
Bill's zuppa was described as leek and potato but was more of a good old-fashioned vege job, very substantial, as such soups tend to be. It was an enormous serving, enough for him and the folk at the surrounding tables if they'd cared to join in. Had he eaten it all, this review would be ending right now.
As it was, he left about two-thirds in order to appreciate the papardelle al ragu di agnello - slow-cooked lamb, red wine, garlic and rosemary stirred through a generous quantity of tender, wide pasta. Delicious, satisfying and, again, a big serving.
My gnocchi with panfried prawns and scallops came in a light tomato and basil sauce. The menu advises that all pasta is fresh and handmade, but I doubted that the gnocchi was included in that statement. The prawns were either overcooked or not quite fresh, but the scallops, barely making their presence felt among the gnocchi, were lovely.
In the interests of research, we soldiered on, ordering pannacotta to share. It came in a consistency rather sturdier than I have been used to, and in a strangely purplish hue. Or maybe it was the lighting, or the early application of the berry coulis. Whichever, it was edible enough.
Gina's has been an Auckland institution since 1973, which is a long time for a restaurant however you look at it. The original owners, the eponymous Gina and her German husband Bodo, retired in 1998 and their places were taken by Joyce and Alessandro Fantoni, who seem set to remain for the foreseeable future.
Rating out of 10
Our meal: $125.50 for two starters, two mains, one dessert, three glasses of wine and a beer.
Wine list: A pretty fair selection, leaning towards Italian offerings, which is as it should be. I enjoyed the Rocca Delle Macie Villa Vescovile pinot grigio, but a glass of Villa Maria verdelho was a better match for my gnocchi. There is Peroni beer on tap.
Verdict: The change of venue has done little to destroy the traditional atmosphere at Gina's, which is a good thing. The place is regularly packed out, so it probably pays to book.