Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of Casa Ciuccio
It's really a shame that the word 'offal' sounds a bit like the word 'awful', an observation which is frequently brought up with my friends when I start discussing my enjoyment of consuming it.
Because really, it's actually, in my opinion, some of the most delicious parts of an animal, especially when cooked right.
Casa Ciuccio is out to support this, introducing a rotating schedule of offal tapas on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, at $25 for 5 different pieces, it's perfect as a little pre-dinner snack if you're early, or just in the mood to treat yourself to a mid-week treat on the way home.
I attended a sampling of their offal goodies on a quiet night with Rob and Melissa. Casa Ciuccio has a lovely comforting and homely vibe, and is a lot bigger than initially meets the eye. We get taken on a tour around to see the bar next to the kitchen, the private function area upstairs and the courtyard (that's perhaps a little more popular in the summer).
We started our evening with a morcilla croqueta with spiced aioli. Seriously, could Casa Ciuccio put a bigger smile on my face at the beginning of a meal? I don't think so. If you don't know already, I'm crazy for morcilla. Crazy for it! The morcilla is made in house, with a lovely and smooth texture and not quite as spicy as I've had it else where.
I always find 'pigs head' on a menu an amusing concept, but it's never quite as grotesque as I expect it to be in presentation. In contrast actually, the pig's head terrine, battered and fried, with pickles and mustard was quite elegant. Lovely and crisp outside, juicy and decadent inside.
I'm a huge fan of beef liver, but hadn't really had chicken livers before, on a skewer no less! Partnered with quince and pumpkin seed, I loved it's rich texture and found it a bit milder in flavour to beef liver. It went well with the quince, providing a sweet note, much like a chicken liver parfait with a sweet chutney or something to go with it, and the crunch of the pumpkin seeds was just delightful.
Tripe, which is braised and then grilled, served with fried bacon, onion and paprika, was one of my favourite things that night, with a curious texture. I'm quite used to the denser more rubbery texture of steamed tripe at yum cha, but when given a bit of char, there's a nice crispiness to it and a whole lot more flavour.
We wrapped up the offal proceedings with oxtail and chorizo, not as adventurous as some of the previous offerings, but just as delicious with a nice spicy bite from the chorizo.
To my great delight, Casa Ciuccio also introduced us to one of their most popular desserts, the Dulce de leche cream pot with delicate shards of peanut praline. Just. Wow. Smooth and lush, it was a beautifully dense custard absolutely packed with rich flavour. I was lucky enough to be sandwiched between two servings!
I enjoyed our evening of nibbles, it's kind of like happy hour, except for food, and a lovely (and very delicious way) of acquainting oneself with offal, as for the most part, unless you're told, you'd probably not really care what part of the animal you're eating as it's all so tasty.
I've been watching Casa Ciuccio's zealously, drooling over some of the other options that have been popping up on following Tuesday and Wednesday's, since they rotate it every week or so, and certainly plan to be back in soon…who knows what I could be eating next…?
15 Gertrude Street
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