Cucina Espresso has racked up nearly eight years of operation. You’ll find the family-run café in Concord’s main shopping strip, which takes up the better part of three blocks of Majors Bay Road.
Cafes and restaurants make up a good many of the businesses in this strip, so competition for the weekend breakfast spend is fierce.
Cucina Espresso have risen to the challenge with an expanded menu of unique breakfast items, all while keeping a core menu for the bacon-and-eggs brigade.
Rather than employing fusion, chef Carlo Calautti’s menu innovations are unified by staying faithful to Italianate flavours and techniques.
His Breakfast Arancini ($16.90) is a moment of pure genius. To make it, Calautti captures a soft poached egg and a scoop of mixed mushrooms inside a porcini and truffle-infused potato and rice arancini. It’s presented on an artful splat of truffle porcini cream, with Bacon ($2), if you so desire.
Cutting into the beautifully crumbed ovoid sees oozing golden yolk mingle beautifully with the earthy, creamy flavours of the truffle cream. While the price might seem expensive for a reasonably small breakfast, it accurately reflects the amount of work that goes into making this clever dish.
Saturday sees this popular café bustling with business, both takeaway and eat-in, with many opting to sit in the narrow but attractively kitted out interior. Despite the cold and windy day, we opt to sit outside at their sidewalk tables, and quickly attended to by friendly staff who get a heater lit for us, and the gas bottle changed as soon it extinguishes.
Coffee, made on quality Little Marionette roasted beans, arrives promptly and is well made, across both a Caffe Latte ($4) and a Flat White ($4) with an Extra Shot ($0.50). Additional beverages are offered without the need to flag down staff.
We’re told chilli oil is the most requested item at Cucina Espresso by a friendly waitress, who procures us some immediately to go with our baked eggs. This is another category where Calautti has worked his magic, kicking off with the usual tomato-based offering, and adapting it into six different baked egg renditions.
Uovo Aglio, Olio e Peperoncini ($18) sees the eggs baked in extra virgin olive oil, Mexican garlic, chill, parsley and buffalo mozzarella, then topped with shaved grana Padano. For an extra five bucks you can throw in moist curls of quality prosciutto and wild rocket leaves. This dish feels both fresh and satisfying when scraped onto the toasted pane di casa that surrounds it, and it sings against the lovely green chilli oil our waitress presented.
Calautti has also played around with eggs Benedict, switching out the muffins for Italian rice and potato croquettes. While there are four different renditions, I’m particularly delighted to be eating the Croquette Mushroom Benedict ($18), because it sits on a bed of beautifully sautéed mushrooms.
The fungi are cooked so well it prompts me to say that Cucina Espresso is really a restaurant masquerading as a café, run by a chef, not a cook. I particularly like the way Calautti has implemented menu change in a community-minded way, to ensure both old and new Concord residents and visitors can eat the breakfast they’re looking for.
89 Majors Bay Road, Concord
Ph: (02) 9743 4088