Cooking authentic Italian food in the heart of Melbourne

Hidden down a quiet street away from the bustle of Bridge Road in Richmond you’ll find a little slice of Italy in the form of Sandra and her Italian Kitchen at La Cucina di Sandra.

She will welcome you, as only an Italian nona can, into her beautiful Mediterranean style home to ply you with her traditional and achingly comforting food.  Sandra left Italy when she was 21 years old but the passion for the food and culture of her home-land has continued throughout her years living in Melbourne.

Upon recently leaving a corporate job, Sandra decided to share this passion and encourage people to try the dishes of her childhood at home.

The format of the evening is essentially a slightly more formal version of heading to a friend’s house for supper.  I immediately felt at home when our host produced a large plate of hand-made parmesan biscuits upon arrival as the Italians can’t bear for anyone to be hungry. Plonked at the breakfast bar with a glass of red, Sandra will demonstrate how each of the courses is created.   As each course is finished you will be ushered to the table to enjoy and then back to the bench to observe again.  Sandra runs demonstrations (Tues and Wed, 6:30pm-10:30pm, $90 per person) for up to 8 people and will happily work with you to arrange a bespoke event in her home or indeed cater for a dinner party in your home.

Sandra uses inspiration from all over Italy but the gorgeous sea-side region of Abruzzo is her home.

The strong influence of the sea is evident in her passion for fish and seafood which was the theme of the evening we attended.  While nibbling on a prawn and salmon frittata, Sandra showed us how to make a mouth-watering stuffed calamari dish with capers and garlic.  The calamari gently simmered and oozed delightful smells as we learned how to make the entree of mussel, lemon and carrot pasta.  For desert we had a super smooth sabayon with raspberry coulis which we watched Sandra make with ease.  All of these dishes could be re-created at home with minimal effort and Sandra removes the fear from cooking these beautiful dishes.

Rather than a strict cookery school I felt like I was back home watching my mother cook, imparting wisdom and techniques you often don’t find in cookbooks. Even a fairly well seasoned cook and Italy-addict such as myself learned a lot, particularly about the best places in Melbourne to pick up great ingredients and equipment.  This is a delightful way to spend an evening with some chums as the art of supper has been well and truly mastered by Sandra.

As we merrily set on our way with full bellies and recipes in hand, I reflected on the simple joy of sharing a meal with new friends and appreciating food made with love and a little Italian sunshine…

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