I have a love for all things Mediterranean, from the cuddly Antonio Carluccio to itsy bitsy Spanish tapas. Which is why I was really looking forward to dining at Cucina, a quaint Italian restaurant on Green Lane, Derby.
Based in the heart of St. Peter’s Quarter, Cucina has been on the Derby eating scene since 2010. Following a refurb and relaunch in 2013, it has become a popular place to be and is ranked 4th out of 429 Derby restaurants having garnered numerous positive reviews online.
We were shown to our table by Alberto Mallardo, the front-of-house, co-owner and larger than life character who made us feel at home right away. The decor is stylish and channels easy chic, with various pieces of modern artwork adorning the walls. What I loved is the nook towards the far back packed with beautiful books that makes you feel as if you’re a welcome guest in an old friend’s home.
We were promptly shown a drinks menu with a decent selection of wine, and food menu that caters for vegetarians too. I started with the Caprese (buffalo mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil). One thing that struck me was the generous portions, as I gazed adoringly at the large melting mozzarella medallion and creamy side salad. I loved it. My dining partner ordered the Parma Ham & Pickled Fennel, which (again was very substantial) and arrived beautifully presented on a rustic wooden platter. I couldn’t help but use this as the featured image, because it looks so darn delicious. It was 18 month aged ham and you could really tell it was high quality meat by the nuanced flavours (salty, umami, hint of sweetness then back to salty).
I had the Pollo al Cucina (chargrilled chicken breast, pecorina and herb sauce, pearl barley, prosciutto crisps and lemon ricotta) which was tasty, cheesy and moreish all rolled into one. The lemony cheese is inspired and was an inventive addition to the pearl barley. My dining partner had the Agnello Primavera (lamb shank in rosemary and thyme, potato puree, salsa verde and jus). The lamb was tender and the puree velvety smooth.
We were stuffed to the rafters and so had to share a dessert (a chocolate pot that was creamy and divine) and finished off with a latte a piece (good, earthy coffee that doesn’t cost the earth). As if all this positive raving wasn’t enough to tempt you, there is also a seasonal specials board; on the day of dining, the drinks specials included fresh lemonade, which was deliciously cloudy and packed a punch in the flavour stakes.
Alberto is a congenial host and one of the best I have encountered. Dining out is so much more than just eating from a plate. It’s about the ambience, aesthetics and how you feel in the restaurant. Cucina has bucket-loads of charm and is a wonderfully unique place; by being creative with food, they lift themselves above the competition and go the extra mile for you.
Don’t just take my word for it – check it out for yourself, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Call 01332 346 796 now to make a booking (they do awesome lunches and hearty dinners too).
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 10
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Address: 25 Green Lane, Derby DE1 1RP Tel: 01332 346 796