La Cucina di Ciro
Ciro's Moonlight Dinners are a treat for the soul and palate
Inspired by the full moon and its power to banish our inhibitions, Ciro Molinaro, the chef-proprietor of La Cucina di Ciro in Parktown North creates a monthly cichetti menu for diners to experience tapas-size tastes in an atmospheric setting.
An institution in Johannesburg, La Cucina di Ciro’s loyal diners return time and time again for deliciously cooked, seasonal plates and great wine in a relaxed setting.
“I have been cooking for almost 30 years. It’s the scent of fresh basil, the intense blush of a tomato still on its vine, the textures of the mustard seeds that pop in the frying pan that have kept me in the kitchen for so many years. My philosophy is simple – always use natural and seasonal foods,” says executive chef and owner of the restaurant, Ciro Molinaro.
Ciro relocated his restaurant to bustling 7th Street, Parktown North about seven years ago, and he recently expanded to include The Pudding Shop, a pop-up dining space that is ideal for special events, afternoon teas, intimate weddings and so much more.
The Pudding Shop is the home of Ciro’s Moonlight Dinners and it was here that my fiancée and I enjoyed a lingering dinner of tasty tit-bits under the light of the full moon. Through the Moonlight Dinners, Ciro has given himself the space to push his creativity to the limits to produce inspired tasting menus, the theme and style of which changes each month.
On the Moonlight Dinner that we attended, we were treated to a nostalgic journey through Ciro’s childhood food memories. The menu paid homage to Ciro’s father; the man that first inspired him to cook. Homely Italian dishes, created with a passion for food and family were the dishes that Ciro’s father cooked every Sunday, and the menu that he presented was a beautiful, modern interpretation of this.
Menu highlights included the artichoke fritters with a light, creamy, mint mayonnaise as well as the beef fillet stuffed with egg, pine nuts, Italian parsley. Cooked in a tomato ragú, the fillet was tender and full of tangy flavour. My highlight of the evening was the stuffed pasta with butternut, ricotta and walnut and served with burnt butter, sage and parmesan. Cosy, delicious comfort food at its best – the combination of flavours and textures made for an exquisite dish.
The Pudding Room was filled with candles, which gave the room a romantic, soft glow. Fresh flowers adorned the white-clothed tables and it was wonderful to look up at the clear ceiling and to see the moonlit sky above. Drapes of fabric hung loosely from the high ceiling too, giving the room an almost medieval quality of celebrations gone by.
Other Moonlight Dinners that Ciro has hosted include a collaboration with a friend and fellow chef to create a fusion Indian menu, and his last Moonlight Dinner in May was French Provençale in style – a tribute to his classical French culinary training.
Ciro’s Moonlight Dinners are a treat for the soul and palate, and I was ready to howl at the moon in reckless abandon (although that could have been as a result of the prosecco).