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The return of Andre’s Cucina - at home

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For those winter evenings ahead, Andre’s Cucina at Home is a takeaway reincarnation of a much-loved Italian eatery that closed its doors for good in January.

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Earlier this year, Andre Ursini retired his flagship Frome Street restaurant Andre’s Cucina and Polenta Bar after 10 years, deciding not to renew the lease but to instead shift his focus to sister restaurant Orso and his catering business.

In the meantime, new concept Andre’s Cucina at Home has been brewing, with Ursini’s team this week launching a menu of generously portioned Italian feasts ready to be heated and served, with pickup and delivery options.

Business development manager Kate Rowlands says the family-focussed “at home” concept was being developed before coronavirus restrictions took hold.

“Andre’s Cucina at Home is something we’ve been working on in the background for some time. With COVID shutting everything down for a while, it gave us more time to step back and look at that brand,” she says.

“We’re taking orders for our first delivery schedule on Friday and the interest has been amazing. We’re delivering to a 12-kilometre radius of the CBD, as well as providing two pick-up points — one in the eastern suburbs and one in the Adelaide Hills.”

The meals are prepared at Andre’s Catering Co in the Hills, with a second pickup location at the delicatessen Willmott’s Gastronomia, which abuts against Orso restaurant at Rose Park.

Rowlands says customers have been excited for the resurrection of favourite dishes from Andre’s Cucina and Polenta Bar, including gnocchi in ragu, pumpkin and zucchini lasagne, chicken cacciatore and beef and pork lasagna.

“We’ve been trialling the products for the past six or seven weeks and the response has been very good. The feedback’s been that the portions are huge, and they’re delicious,” she says.

With no clear timeline on when restaurants will re-open in full, the new business model will be key over the coming months. Rowlands says it is unclear whether customers will be hesitant or eager to dine at restaurants when restrictions are lifted.

“While the government is talking about allowing people to come back for dining, there are many people who don’t want to rush back to restaurants. They’re not comfortable about dining in public just yet.

“So, while there are lots of people beating down the doors wanting to come and dine, there are also those who would feel more comfortable dining at home, which is where these takeaway options come in.”

From June 1, the business will announce an Italian banquet-style Fisso at Home menu, which is another throwback to Andre’s Cucina and Polenta Bar and designed for a dinner-party celebration.

“Many people would remember the Fisso menu from the Cucina; we’ve have had a huge amount of interest in bringing it back,” Rowlands says.

“We consider ourselves very lucky that we’ve been able to keep our doors open in some capacity, I know there are lots of other businesses that haven’t had that opportunity.”

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