We found our favourite Italian restaurant – Caffé Centrale^ during our 2 days family weekend trip to Hamilton. Our family loved the food so much here that we had to return the next day with our family friends for a feast before rushing over to the Balloons Over Waikato festival.
Situated on the banks of the Waikato river and right across the 4* family hotel we stayed at – Novotel Hamilton Tainui, Caffé Centrale was a spontaneous find after our pre-schooler requested pizza for dinner.
We quickly became the most loyal customers and were hooked on their finger-licking good pizzas and mouth-watering fettuccine.
* This post is not sponsored, meaning we have paid for this service or product in full as guests or customers.
When we first spotted Caffé Centrale, my first impression was… ‘is it open?’ The restaurant has a vintage aesthetic look from the outside. The wooden door is nothing but ordinary, and you probably wouldn’t pay much attention to it if you were just walking by. However, with a peek inside this Italian restaurant, the sense of authenticity pulled me in unknowingly. Upon an inspection of their menu, we immediately found what we wanted, and the prices seemed reasonable. So Caffé Centrale it was!
The kids pushed and shoved one another through the tiny door together with our stroller, and we walked into Italy. The giant Italian flag with the restaurant’s name ‘Caffé Centrale’ stands prominently by the entrance, and paintings of familiar places in Italy hang on the wall.
I was brought back down the memory lane and relived my Italy’s travel days while admiring these paintings. One of my favourites was the birds-eye view of the Colosseum, where it had a Felidae statue placed next to it.
Interesting decors such as masquerade masks and the bottles by the bar kept our kids fascinated throughout the evening. We noticed the photographs hanging next to the flag, but we didn’t get a chance to look up-close as customers were dining there. Presumably, we sensed a proud owner who must’ve loved his country dearly.
We were welcomed by friendly staff who appointed us to our table. They set up a high chair for our baby and brought colouring pens and an activity book for our pre-schooler, top service! One thing to note is they only had one high chair when we returned the next day with our friends. However, they did offer a booster seat for the 2-year-old.
Our waiter patiently explained the types of noodles and the differences between the menu selections when we had trouble understanding the menu. He was so detailed and professional that I didn’t understand 100% anyway, haha.
The next day, we scheduled to go to Balloons Over Waikato, but we wanted to have an early dinner before going to the event. We discussed with our family friends whether we wanted to wait until Caffé Centrale opens at 5.30pm, which would’ve been a little late for us to find parking at the event. So I called the Italian restaurant and asked if we could have an early dinner. To my surprise, they happily offered to open the door for us at 5pm instead and notify the chef to start preparing early. We had a look at the photo of the menu that we took previously and rang them back again to pre-order just before 5pm.
Our food came quickly and we were being looked after very well by the staff. We had a good chat near the end and were out the door before 6 pm. Everything worked out perfectly.
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I couldn’t praise the food enough! I’m drooling all over my keyboard as I write this blog post. We went there for pizza initially, and they served us the best pizza we could find in an authentic Italian restaurant. Do you know how to tell if a pizza is to die for? In our experience, when you see the cheese is stringy and melts with the base all the way back down to the plate when you grab it, then it’s a damn good pizza. I tried to illustrate that in the photos below, but our prosciutto pizza toppings kept sliding off, and I literally couldn’t even hold the pizza for one second to take a photo, but as you can see, our fussy eater approved!
Quite honestly, I didn’t need to understand what I was ordering at all because everything on the menu was amazing. Our friends ordered the Quattro Formaggi Pizza (4 cheese pizza), and it looked so cheesily amazing! We tried both fettuccine, one in basil pesto sauce and the other I believe was in creamy tomato sauce. Both were so delicious that I was reluctant to share with the kids!
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In the meantime…
What’s your favourite Italian food and what makes it authentic for you?