Photographs: David Straight
Finally. Two years on, there is somewhere to eat at North Wharf. It has pedigree: owner Michael Dearth made a name at The Grove for careful, considered dining in a private, bricky space. With Baduzzi, he’s done something else entirely – baduzzi means “meatballs” in the Sicilian dialect. Yes: this is a posh meatball bar on a very public corner site.
It works. There are no bookings: you will wait at the moment unless you go for lunch, which suits this place. It’s Italian by way of East Coast America – green leather booths, marble tables, dark wood, white walls. There is a fabulous charcuterie cabinet – the wares of which we can assure you are very good indeed – and a gigantic open kitchen. The food is classic Italian-American – and chef Ben Bayly (who is also in charge at The Grove) has made it his own, taking classics and just changing them up slightly, as if he can’t quite let go of fine dining. We love that. Recently, we’ve eaten an inspired American wedding soup ($9) with beans and cavolo nero and there are excellent grilled sardines ($9). We can also highly recommend the salad of squid and white beans ($13): grilled and lemony, perfectly balanced. An inspired Occitanian fish stew ($25), with clams and snapper in a rich, crayfish broth redolent with saffron. The honey semifreddo with sesame toffee and blood orange ($12) is the best dessert we’ve eaten in months.
And those meatballs. Two words: crayfish meatball ($16) – delicate and subtle, served with chick peas. Or “wild red deer” with Portobello mushroom in a sticky, almost overwhelming sauce. Lamb, with thyme and preserved lemon: balanced, thoughtful. With food like this, Baduzzi deserves to be as much a classic as The Grove. SFG
HOURS Monday to Friday, 8am to late; Saturday and Sunday, 11.30am to late.
ADDRESS Corner Jellicoe Street & Fish Lane, North Wharf, ph 309-9339. baduzzi.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS The wine list must be mentioned: Dearth is importing Italian wines, most of them obscure. Trust the staff’s recommendations, they’re great.