I had visited Covo for special morning coffees as part of our Finding Flavour Italian Food Tours, so I thought I would check them out for dinner. I had heard that Japanese Chef Chihiro was more Italian than the Italians who worked there. He speaks Italian and has trained in Italy, so I was looking forward to trying some of his homemade pasta dishes.
Covo loosely translates into “hang-out” in Italian and the décor has a rustic industrial feel vaguely reminiscent of a gangster meeting place. However, not to worry, you do not need to be on the wrong side of the law to eat here.
The Italian serving staff gave us a warm welcome and sat us down in a corner booth. The small restaurant was doing a steady trade early on a Tuesday evening and I would recommend reservations if you came here on a weekend.
The menu has entrees, pasta, pizza, mains and salads and paninis. The extra large pizzas are above our budget at $32 but we imagine most would be sharing these anyway so it’s not an issue. There are also two mains that are more than $20 but since everything else on the comprehensive menu is under we decided it would be foolish to exclude it as it is very easy to eat at Covo for under $20/head and most people would.
My daughter and I were hungry, so we threw caution to the wind and ordered a large meal. The Lasagne Bolognaise, made with meat and béchamel sauce was a no-brainer selection for my daughter. We could have ordered the entrée size ($14.50) but we insisted on the main size ($20). I knew we were in for a large meal when the waiter asked if we were sure.
Several pasta dishes appealed to me such as the “Last Trip” made with Otello spicy sausages and broccoli, but the special of the day won out: Canneloni with prawns, ricotta cheese and eggplant ($20 main size). I also ordered a rocket salad with parmesan and balsamic vinegar ($7) just to balance all those carbs.
Both pasta dishes were “lick the plate clean” delicious. The pasta was light, the fillings of both dishes were very flavourful and the sauces rich and creamy. The side salad hit the right crisp and savoury note. I accompanied my dinner with a glass of Italian Chianti ($12.00). The wine list is short but you can choose from a couple of Italian wine offerings or New Zealand wine (or Italian beer). My daughter enjoyed an Italian blood orange fruit drink.
My daughter has a love affair with tiramisu. I had spied a large dish of this rich Italian dessert sitting in the front display cabinet when we arrived, so we had to place an order ($10). The dessert had all the components of a great tiramisu: coffee soaked cake, creamy topping, generous dusting of cocoa. However, this was definitely pushing the boundaries of our eating capacity. The serving was large enough for several people and we did take some home in a container.
Had we been in the mood for pizza, we could have ordered by the slice ($6), large size ($16.50-$18.50) or extra-large size ($28-$32)). The table next to ours ordered a large size pizza and it seemed to satisfy a man plus a couple of pieces for another person. And there were leftovers.
Main-size salads include chicken Caesar salad ($15.50), grilled calamari salad ($15.00) and lamb meatballs on baby spinach ($15.00). The two traditional mains over $20 are the fish of the day ($27.00) and the crumbed chicken with mozzarella and parma ham ($26).
Covo brings a casual Italian experience into the heart of the Auckland CBD. It works for a group of friends or workmates, couples and even families. There are three locations in the Covo family: 44 Fort Street; 137 Richmond Road; 15 Nicholls Lane, Carlaw Park, Parnell. The Parnell location is a winebar and features specially imported Italian wines not readily available elsewhere in New Zealand.