Recently we were invited by First Table to trial their service and we immediately loved the idea behind it. As the old saying goes, ‘The Early Bird Catches the Worm,’ First Table allows you to catch the Early Bird dinner deals at a host of restaurants.
The concept and website is simple and easy to use. Simply sign up to First Table at www.firsttable.co.nz,choose the restaurant you’d like to go to, pay $10 to book a First Table and you’ll get 50 % off your entire food bill for 2 to 4 diners.It’s a great initiative and there are restaurants all over New Zealand to choose from with more restaurants joining all the time! And who doesn’t love dining early and beating the crowds? We know we do!
So after work one Friday we booked a First Table at Gina’s Italian, an authentic, rustic spot in the city centre. Red checked tablecloths with wooden furniture and Italian staff really set the tone for an evening of tasty, traditional Italian cooking.
Anything but quiet, Gina’s pride themselves on being a typical loud, bustling, busy Italian restaurant. Gina’s is named after Gina Maio who moved to Auckland in 1973 and opened her first Italian restaurant in Mount Eden.
We began with a very moreish appetiser of salted fried dough – this was dangerously addictive and we couldn’t stop ourselves from finishing the entire basket!
The Polpette – home made beef and pork meatballs served with tomato sauce and topped with parmesan were soft and meaty and the tomato sauce had a hint of spice which really added to the dish.
The Arancini or deep fried rice balls were crispy and filled with bolognese ragu, green peas and mozzarella.
The Carpaccio di Tonno was a delicate portion of tuna carpaccio with lemon, olive oil and parsely. The tuna was so soft it was like eating beef carpaccio!
The Caprese salad was so fresh and we could tell that only the highest quality ingredients had been used. The salad consisted of fresh Italian Mozzarella layered with tomato, olive oil and basil pesto.
For our main course, one of the options we chose was the Spaghetti alla Scoglio. This was served in the skillet and the lid was removed at the table with a flourish – this was a great touch and ensured the dish was still piping hot. The spaghetti had prawns, calamari and mussels and they were tossed with garlic, cherry tomatoes and white wine and topped with parsley and lemon.
The Potato Gnocchi was topped with slow cooked lamb ragu, white wine, garlic, lemon zest and parsley and topped with Parmesan cheese and gremolata. This was soft and comforting and very much a winter dish! With this bad weather we’ve been having, it suited the occasion perfectly.
The next dish we chose was cooked at the table. Definitely one to choose if you like a bit of theatrics! We loved it.
After being cooked at the table the veal was topped with spinach and Parmesan cheese and served with vegetables and roast potatoes. This was a special on the night so do look out for it.
Gina’s does pizza very well indeed and the 4 fromaggio was topped generously with the cheese. This pizza is not on the menu but you can choose classic Italian dishes anytime even if they are not on the menu such as lasagne and spaghetti bolognese.
For dessert we couldn’t go past the Tortino de Cioccolato which was a dark chocolate and walnut mini cake with a molten chocolate centre. This was served warm with vanilla ice cream.
We veered slightly from the Italian theme to try the Creme Brulee. This was topped with berry coulis and cream and had that tell tale crack when you tap the top with your spoon.
Gina’s has a very inviting courtyard at the back which is lit up with fairy lights and would be perfect for cocktails and nibbles.
As we made the booking with First Table, we were out of the restaurant before the masses descended and we received 50% off our entire food bill (no drinks included).
Head to www.firsttable.co.nz to book your first one! (+ Sign up now to claim $5 free credit from our promo code!) You will soon be hooked 🙂
We had a great time at Gina’s, so if you are looking for that quintessential neighbourhood Italian, we’ve found it.
Gina’s Italian Kitchen
161 Symonds Street
Tel: 09 302 2061