Cultura Espresso Bar and Restaurant

The name evokes continental Europe. Italy specifically. Well it is Italian for culture after all.

Cultura has been on the Hobart food scene for many years. It will celebrate its 8th birthday in December. Luke Rocchia heads up the enterprise and John Martinez heads up the kitchen.

Cultura has recently undergone a little renaissance. Some very nice renovations to the front better connect their stylish dark interior with their outdoor eating area. Breakfast of eggs and bacon are gone. They’re now focusing on their core business – lunch and dinner with pizza, pasta, some Italian classic mains and cocktails.

I’ve walked past it a thousand times and thought I must get there for dinner but so far haven’t managed it. Hobart CBD dining won’t be a big thing until there’s more inner-city housing and reason to come to town and stay. Cultura is a step in the right direction.

After about a decade of regular meals with Boozy Friday Lunch Friend he casually slips into conversation that he eats at Cultura every week. Every. Week. Only now does he think to suggest it as our latest lunch destination. CBD lunch definitely works for me so that’s where we went.

I did my due diligence and pored over the online menu. I love a good pasta dish and I don’t mean the fast and furious mid-week special at home. I mean the pasta people make who know what they’re doing. My absolute favourite combination is chicken and pesto. Hip hip hooray!

It’s on the Cultura menu.

This is what we ate:

  • pan seared calamari, $17, balsamic vinegar, bitter leaves and chilli
  • arancini, $16, served on roasted capsicum coulis and basil pesto
  • pesto pollo penne, $26, thin strips of chicken, red onion, spinach in a creamy basil pesto sauce and
  • Sicilian duck, $31, slow braised with red wine, dried fruit, chilli and served with chestnut gnocchi.

I can never have enough pesto. That’s what I said when we ordered and at least on this occasion it was true. The arancini were crisp to the bite and enjoyed a modest drizzle of the basil sauce which worked well with the coulis. The calamari was served a la bruschetta-style. It was smoky and tender and held its own with the vinegar dressing.

If you fancy pasta there’s a choice of fettucine, penne, spaghetti, ricotta ravioli, house-made gnocchi and gluten-free pasta. Luke recommended a lighter pasta to go with pesto pollo since we’d elected entrees. If you’re eating one course he’ll say go for the gnocchi. It sounded delicious but good sense got the better of me and I took his advice. I still couldn’t eat it all and dessert was way way, so far out, Siberia out, of the question.

The larger meals are dinner-sized and perfect for Boozy who drooled over the duck, a stunning piece of poultry served with crisped-edged gnocchi. Luke told us his absolute menu fav is one of these meals.

“My ultimate favourite…and has been for a long time, is the beef and lamb ragu with our house-made gnocchi. Absolutley delizioso with a couple of slices of bread to clean the plate!” Luke said.

Luke says that his focus for Cultura is providing a flexible menu that hits the spot for either lunch or dinner.

“We believe we have really hit the mark with our new menu released in October which has plenty of light, easy and affordable lunch options and also gives customers the ability to have substantial three or four course dinners,” Luke said.

“Our main aim is to combine quality produce from all over Tasmania with quality produce from Italy.

“We try and source pretty much all our products from the two places and I believe this produces a fresh and unique quality and flavour,” he said.

“Everything is cooked to order and our main focus is fresh and simple Italian cooking.”

Cultura is a solid inner-city option serving delicious Italian meals with efficient wait staff.

Luke tells us that he’s keen to encourage you to be more like me. Well not exactly but that’s what I heard.

Step over that threshold and enjoy a meal.

“I’d like to extend an invite to anyone who has been curious to try the little Italian place in the city, or to anyone who hasn’t visited in a while, whether you just want a coffee or a three-course meal you are always welcome into our little CBD haven and we just might surprise you!

I’m keen to go back and try some of the wonderful-sounding cocktails they show off on their blackboard menu and speaking of which aperitivo hour is Thursday – Saturday, 4 pm – 5.30 pm where you can enjoy a $15 cocktail and a $5 Peroni.

Find them at 123 Liverpool Street, Hobart.

At the time of writing opening hours were Tuesday – Saturday, 11.30 am – 2.30 pm for lunch and 5.30 pm – 8.30 pm for dinner. There’s an all-day bar menu too.

For more information including their menu and to check current opening hours, visit their webpage – Cultura Hobart.

Call to make a reservation on 6234 7111.

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