When you think of Jupiters Casino, the first things to come to mind probably sit somewhere between bustling Black Jack tables and very late nights.
But despite Jupiters being most often associated with its casino - it’s also now home to two restaurants that are stand outs in their own right.
While Japanese with a contemporary twist restaurant Kiyomi (headed by celeb chef Chase Kijoma of Star City fame) had a star-studded launch in December of 2014, Cucina Vivo relaunched earlier this year to much less fanfare.
But that’s not to say it’s any less impressive. Although casual in essence, I discovered Cucina Vivo is quietly confident - and so it should be.
I headed in with my partner in tow (a self-confessed carb afficionado) to put the restaurant through its paces.
The atmosphere at Cucina Vivo is positively buzzy; at the entry, aged cheeses, bottles of limoncello and a charcuterie station adorn the bench alongside a Vespa, leading through to the open style kitchen and dining area, where the chefs can be seen removing pizzas from the two-metre long wood fired oven and prepping dessert as waiters weave in and out of the dining areas.
The restaurant itself has seating along large tressel tables adjacent to the open kitchen and more intimate booth-style and table seating - as well as alfresco dining perched over the newly revamped swimming pool.
Starting with an Italian Pino Grigio, we ordered the beef carpaccio and calamari fritti - which also happened to be our waiter’s recommendation. Both servings were generous, the calamari melt in the mouth and the carpaccio perfectly served and seasoned with plenty of rocquet to accompany it.
Despite a substantial menu, it was difficult to look beyond the mudcrab we’d seen was getting a start on the list of specials that evening. Wood roasted and served with braised octopus, Kinkawooka mussels and a hearty tomato broth, we tussled over the biggest claw and legs for a good hour or so. It was juicy, with plenty of meat and flavour, and demolished alongside a wood fired pizza special - though there were plenty of options available on the standard menu - featuring proscuitto, mozzarella, Tuscan kale, muscovado vinaigrette and toasted pine nuts. The mark of a good pizza is the base, and this was pretty close to perfect - slightly chewy with a crispy crust and just the right ratio of toppings to sauce and cheese.
Our waiter was warm, attentive and knowledgeable, which always makes such a big difference when dining out.
Our lofty appetite ambitions could not be thwarted by the hearty entrees and mains, even managing to fit in a serving of gelato three ways in a selection from the day’s flavours; banoffee (so, so good), raspberry and white chocolate. It was pretty phenomenal stuff (though I have often said that the way to my heart is through gelato).
Forget the over-worked version of Italian you may be more familiar with - especially on the GC. Cucina nails the ‘simple flavours done really well’ approach (perhaps that’s where the casual comes in), as with the whole experience.
Jupiters is well worth a visit - for Cucina alone. And, if Cucina and Kiyomi are anything to go by, the Casino's much-needed refurbishments currently underway are set to be something to really look forward to.
Cucina Vivo is open for dinner daily from 5.30pm, and lunch Fri-Sun from 12pm
Lobby Level, Jupiters Hotel & Casino, Broadbeach