We all know that when you go to an Italian dinner, you don’t leave until you’re well and truly full. But what happens when you got to a Greek and Italian degustation? Well, I can only describe it as an incredible feast that leaves you more stuffed than a turkey on Christmas. A few months ago, Cicio Cacio, also known as everybody’s favourite Italian in Wellington, announced a special collaboration between their chef, Gulio, and the chef from Oikos (another fabulous restaurant in Wellington), Theo. This collaboration was going to be a feast of the senses and the seas: bringing together the two cuisines that truly make Mediterranean food a favourite for all – Greek and Italian.
On a chilly Sunday lunchtime, my partner and I set off (a little hungover from the night before) to Cicio Cacio, where we would be greeted by our two chefs and a lovely waitress, Daniella. After our very warm and welcoming hello’s, we were sat down at a long 20-seat table, which for me emulated the very idea of the feast – to bring together from all walk of life to simply enjoy good food and make everlasting friendships – which I can definitely say, it did.
With it being a Greek feast too, we were warmly welcomed with a cold glass of Ouzo – which after hearing my mum’s experiences on it, I wasn’t too keen. But hey, so I did what any other 21-year-old would do and downed it very politely, and it wasn’t too bad (although I could see 8 of these being an issue…). After the others had arrived and we’d all introduced ourselves, it was time for the feast to begin – and boy it was smelling good.
To entertain our stomachs, we snacked on a selection of classic horiatiko psomi and focaccia breads, with dipping oils, which only made me hungrier for what was to come. Soon after the last crumbs had been vacuumed up, plates of scorched asparagus and deep fried aubergine graced the table and were soon demolished by hungry diners. The asparagus was super smokey, but still had the earthy crunch – but the little dusting of parmesan and balsamic was what really made the asparagus flavours sing. And the aubergine, whilst not being the most colourful to look at, the flavours definitely created a spectrum in the mouth. Sweet aubergine and nutty tahini was an amazing combo, but what really elevated this little starter was the crunch of the perfectly fried batter – this was what my hangover needed.
We were only getting started, as soon after the last stick of asparagus had disappeared along came a mountain of giant prawns, oozing with seafood-y juices. Usually I eat the whole prawn, but these suckers had a shell ten times hard – but also that meant they had ten times the succulent meat on the inside. We were at a Greek/Italian feast – so a bowl of prawns is definitely not enough seafood. And I was right in thinking there was more to come when a giant bowl of salted sardines were placed among us. My neighbour diner being Greek, absolutely jumped with joy at the sight of these and couldn’t wait to get his fingers on them. I didn’t quite understand his excitement until I ate one for myself, and found them to be the perfect snack if you’re a seafood lover like myself (if you’re not a fan of fish, AVOID these at all costs).
Now the snacks were over, it was time for something a little less light. Now, it was time for pasta. For the Italian fare we had this super traditional pesto pasta, which was the first time I’ve ever tried pasta made from just flour and water – and it was sensational. For the Greek main, we were served the most tender and tasty octopus I had ever eaten, all mixed together in Israeli couscous and a tomato-based sauce. These two dishes were a perfect example of just how mouth-watering Mediterranean cuisine truly is.
After our carb-loaded courses, we entered the meat round. My partner and I are usually pescatarians and try to eat as little meat as possible. However we also have a goal to waste less, and so to not waste the life of an animal and the time and effort from the chefs, we put down our vegetarian gauntlets. The chicken was tender, juicy and melt in the mouth – it didn’t make me miss meat but heck it definitely was a good eat! This chicken was served with petite lamb chops, a fresh and tangy fennel salad, and of course, it wouldn’t be a Greek feast without the classic Greek salad – a jumble of feta, juicy tomatoes, crusty bread, and olives. Even though all these dishes seem simple, when you pick and choose a forkful-of-this and a spoonful-of-that, the resulting flavours that you get are something completely but deliciously different.
You’d think after this we’d be pretty full – well, we were definitely tipsy from the free-flowing wine, but our tummies knew there was one more treat left to try – dessert! I was expecting some traditional tiramisu or baklava, but instead what we got was this lovely light and airy coffee granita with cream, and a baked custard with caramelized filo and freeze-dried raspberries. These two desserts were the ideal end to a grand feast, both had exceptionally delightful flavours and textures that emulated the coffee-and-biscuits that you usually have at the end of a degustation.
The whole point of this feast was to bring food lovers together from far and wide to celebrate the food from the Mediterranean, and I think if you’ve got to this part of the article, you can agree that both Gulio and Theo executed it beyond anybody’s expectations. Every single part of this experience was worth every cent I paid to be there, and I would go broke just to live it all again. If you’re ever looking for authentic and exotic foods, a great ambiance, and second to none service – Oiekos or Cicio Cacio are the places to go.