Alto Cucina Lounge and Bar
Corner Bellevue Avenue and Taylor Court
Ph: 5244 3933
The Greater Geelong suburb of Highton, in years gone by, had not really been a hot spot when it came to dining out in Geelong, particularly in the evening. Highton’s main meeting place, the Bellevue Avenue shopping centre, was developed in the mid 1960’s, but was missing the establishment that most towns and suburbs had “on every corner” – the pub. Once a dry suburb, dining options in the past were a few small cafes and takeaway shops. But the last decade has seen the addition of a new development built within the shopping centre, and the dining scene has begun to change – no doubt to the relief of all those who live or work in Highton and crave a decent coffee or some yummy lunch.
Once the aforementioned development occurred and the empty shop fronts began filling up with various services and new eateries, Highton became a place that suddenly had some options. This culinary development spurred on similar ventures and soon, the shopping centre saw cool new venues open up, challenging the type of cuisine that was being offered at the time. Now, there was the option to pop down for a great breakfast at 63 degrees, or graze over a tasting plate and a glass of wine at Darriwill.
It seems that the turnover of food business owners in Highton is very high, and the best example I’ve seen of this is at a little dining room on the top floor of the terrace building, on the corner of Bellevue Avenue and residential Taylor Court. The building has housed the fish and chip shop downstairs for years and years, yet every restaurateur who takes a punt upstairs struggles to make it last. In the last few years it has appeared under the guises of The Terrace, The Deck, and various other names, however it was its latest incarnation, Alto Cucina, that my mum and dad were very keen to show me.
We booked in at the restaurant and for the first five minutes of our evening I raved about how impressed I was. What I saw when I walked in really was not what I was expecting; gone was the daggy, dated decor I remembered from previous visits. In its place were neutral black, white and brown tones, big comfortable chairs, art on the walls and white table-clothed tables: a very modern, fine dining look.
This is a family run business – our waitress was the chef’s cousin – and there is obviously love being put into this food, and indeed the whole establishment. Everything is handmade on the premises, from the pesto sauce, to the many varieties of pasta, to the freshly crumbed schnitzels. Our waitress was clearly so happy to be a part of this business venture and so keen for its success: she was a delight, eagerly helping us with the menu and gushing enthusiastically when describing the meals.
Scaloppine con funghi e Marsala, $19.50
Tender veal with the sweet taste of Marsala made for a really interesting, tasty combination of flavours, and fresh veggies balanced that intense sweetness.
Pumpkin and ricotta agnolotti, pesto sauce, $22.00
Our waitress was not wrong to gush: the pasta was fantastic, fresh pillows of ricotta in a beautifully coloured pumpkin casing. The pesto sauce, with lots of crunchy pine nuts, was indeed a perfect match for the pasta. Pasta is not a dish I order frequently, and I had been eyeing off the swordfish steak on the specials board, but I really wanted to try the house-made pasta and I’m glad I did!
Ricotta and spinach ravioli with carbonara sauce, $20.00
My brother, being a massive carbonara fan but also wanting to try a unique homemade pasta, went for a fairly non traditional combination, but it still worked. My brother said the flavours of ricotta and spinach added a bit more interest to a traditional carbonara sauce and that he would order the combination again; he did mention however that the “sauce” could have been more saucy and creamy, as it was served more in pieces of bacon and egg rather than in a smooth or “liquidy” form. A sauce with great flavour, however.
Chicken parmigiana, $19.50
A fat, juicy piece of chicken crumbed in delicious herbs, served with good crispy chips and a refreshing salad to balance it all out.
Eggplant parmigiana, $19.00
Mum’s meal was a hit too and didn’t feel like a vegetarian dish – it was rich and tomatoey and “meaty” enough in texture that it left you feeling like you’d eaten something of substance. A great dish for vegetarians, again balanced by crisp chips and a yummy fresh salad.
With very little competition vying for the dinner trade, and a stunning balcony peering through the green trees and over the shopping centre below, this venue should be a success story. Alto Cucina are pitching themselves as a “lounge and bar”, and as we walked out on the balcony my Mum and I could see ourselves sitting out having a drink and some nibbles, especially now that the owners are introducing live music on weekends. Perhaps now that the service, food and decor are so vastly improved, Alto Cucina will gain the status of ” our local” amongst Highton residents – and it’s about time we had one we could call our own.
Stay tuned to the “Foodie Events” page on ravenous for more information about live music at Alto Cucina.