Italian could be considered a little over-done; you can't count on two hands how many wood fired pizza, spaghetti carbonara, BYO pinot, green and red striped, moustache-staffed Italian restaurants there are around Auckland city. Never mind the ones stacked with people who want to be seen sitting outside of (*cough* SPQR). Until recently, there has never been a small tapas fine dining version - or, at the very least, there has never been a version that took off in popularity.
Meet Baduzzi. You've probably heard of it before.
Photography by Emma Shrubb
Wynyard quarter, stacked with restaurants, plays home to this culinary haven of meatballs, perfectly crafted ravioli dishes, and notably incredible service. The red sign out front signals you're in the right place. Warm vibes from the staff (whom aren't all actually Italian) greet you, with fauna scattered across the fragmented restaurant floor. A floating bar located in the centre sits below a jungle tapestry of ivy hangings and random eclectic collectives. It's like a hoarder has found all the objects in their home they don't need or want and found a place for them here - but in a way that is clearly cleverly thought out. It looks perfect. To your right as you walk in are expanses of tables, and a tidy outdoor patio area.
Photography by Emma Shrubb
The service is exquisite. There was not a single fault I could find in our waitress' order of service, or demeanour. Her jokes were well timed, our glasses were never empty, and our plates never too far from the next serving. Literally, this is the closest I have ever found to 10/10 service in Auckland, and that's saying something.
It's sharing style tapas fare, their meatballs being the main event (forget whatever Bedford Soda and Liquor ever taught you about meatballs, because this is the real deal). There is fair serving of pastas, and salads, ragout, and fish dishes, taking an almost kiwi-italian fusion approach to the sharing meal experience. We opted for the crayfish meatballs first, juicy, fresh, hand-crafted, and almost superior to what I think is the greatest meatball I have ever tasted in their “Wild Red Deer” (venison) meatballs. We rounded off the duck ragout and polished of a flat iron steak, perfectly cooked I might add, the snapper lobster ravioli (the snapper and lobster mashed and served inside the pasta shell), and of course tiger prawns, because why not.
The Snapper & Lobster Ravioli looking fab; Photography by Emma Shrubb
Oh my lord, the meatballs... ; Photography by Emma Shrubb
The only thing I could fault was that we had to shell our own prawns - but the chef isn't there to pick off shells, he's there to make magic happen, and magic certainly happened. All around top notch service, beautiful Italian and New Zealand wine round off a magnificent drinks list, with a few Italian-inspired cocktails in there. Make a quick note that it is vegetarian-friendly, but I'm not sure about the vegans in the house. Expect to enjoy good vibes, what I have hyped as the universe’s best service - no pressure guys - and the best god damn meatballs you will find this side of the equator.
Worth checking out on a summer's evening. Would make a great first date spot too. It's cute but not quaint, formal but not dressed up in a suit and tie. It's Italian inspiration at it's best.
Images c/o Emma Shrubb.