Pasta & Cuore's menu is a small, sweet handmade book filled with poetry, the sources of ingredients, and the owner's family history alongside antipasti, lunch and dinner options. Rifling through its pages, it becomes clear each element of Pasta & Cuore is a labour of love.
Stefania Ugolini owns Pasta & Cuore, and her personal history has influenced the menu and philosophy of the restaurant. Stefania was taught to cook by her grandmother, whose book of treasured recipes makes up the restaurant’s menu. It’s made clear the food is proudly focused on the region of Emilia-Romagna, dispelling the myth that it’s possible to group ‘Italian food’ into one defined category. Stefania makes fresh pasta daily, offering it up for people to take home, along with a range of mouth-watering sauces.
Pasta & Cuore looks quite small from the outside, but a lovely courtyard hides out the back and extra seating can be found upstairs. Settled in at a large wooden table we spent a while poring over the menu before deciding on our dinner. The fact my initial choice, of Potato Gnocchi with Seasonal Vegetable Ragout, wasn’t available was quickly remedied by the mention of Spaghetti alla Chitara topped with creamy gorgonzola Lombardo, walnuts and fresh rocket from the garden. It was creamy with the simple sauce accentuated by bites of tasty cheese and the soft crunch of walnuts. I didn’t want it to end. My friend went for one of the day’s specials – Pumpkin Tortellini with sage butter and parmesan.
Each dish was satisfying without being overly rich and we happily dove our forks into one another’s meals. We stopped talking until we’d finished scraping the sauce off our bowls. While we could barely muster the room for dessert (we’d gone from stomach-rumblingly hungry to full in ten minutes flat) we shared the Panacotta with Strawberry Coulis and Fresh Mint that we’d seen on its way to another table earlier in the evening. It was stunning to look at and the way the sweet, saucy strawberries complemented the rich, vanilla of the pannacotta meant it didn’t disappoint. The ‘Inevitable Tiramisu’ is on the list of desserts to try next time around.
While their mission to "create a delicious food experience that guests will want to share with friends, old and new, over and over again" might sound contrived in another setting, here it feels genuine. I already plan on spending at least one of my summer afternoons in their sunny courtyard with a selection of antipasti. The pasta-making classes they regularly run upstairs are also incredibly tempting. Mt Eden’s lucky to have acquired such a welcoming restaurant that’s so enthusiastic about sharing their beautiful food and story with Auckland.
409 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
Tuesday to Saturday: 10am – 7.30pm
Sunday: 10am – 3pm