Mamma mia! Who would expect to find a beautiful trattoria on the backside of the Old Country Market (best known these days as Goats on the Roof) in the tiny-and-kind-of-wild settlement of Coombs? Cuckoo Trattoria and Pizzeria has been serving up traditional Italian food to hundreds of folks over the past few years in one of the most stunningly lovely restaurant settings on Vancouver Island. There seems no end in sight to the place’s success.
The building that houses Cuckoo is a blend of old and new – it was built around the core of a 60-year-old farmhouse and still features the original fireplace and some of the living space. High ceilings, lots of windows, cosy nooks and reclaimed tongue-in-groove fir floors add to a charming ambiance indoors. And then, there is the exquisite sprawling outdoor terrace – my absolute favourite place to dine in fine weather. Surrounded by mature trees and a laid-back vibe, it is the perfect place to enjoy an al fresco meal with friends or family.
The atmosphere at Cuckoo is very welcoming, and that carries through on the extensive menu. Offerings include individual meals but there is also the option of ordering family-style repasts served on platters for sharing. There are gluten-free and dairy-free items for those on restricted diets.
We have dined at Cuckoo a couple of times in recent months and were delighted with pretty much everything we consumed. A not-on-the-menu starter special one evening involved a mouth-watering combination of chanterelle mushrooms in cream, served over focaccia. Our most recent foray involved a starter called Formaggio al forno – a creamy baked brie encrusted with toasted honeyed pecans and served with fresh apple and artisan bread.
Our mains at both meals have been filling and most flavourful – veal scallopini, lasagna, lamb shanks and a killer Linguine al pesto Genovese featuring house-made linguine left us both with happy tummies and happy memories of good food served with friendly efficiency in a very special setting.
And, of course, there are the desserts – traditional tiramisu takes centre stage, but there are various ‘stacks’ on offer featuring a variety of flavours and sweetness levels. My lemon berry stack was a nice finish to a great meal, and the shared chocolate peanut butter stack consumed during our most recent outing went down pretty well too.
As if the good food and absolutely charming ambiance aren’t enough, we also have to offer a ‘thumbs up’ to the wait staff. Both of our most recent visits have been during very busy periods (Cuckoo serves 900 meals a day during the summer months) but service has unfailingly been friendly and swift.
‘”In the old Italian tradition, everybody’s welcome in our house,” says Cuckoo’s Chef Fausto. Somehow they have worked the right magic at this place to make diners feel exactly that way as soon as they step through the door.
Price rating: $$
Further information on Cuckoo Trattoria and Pizzeria can be found at the website:
Cuckoo is located at 2326 Alberni Highway (Highway 4A) in Coombs, behind the Old Country Market.
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.30433393176267 Long. -124.42367450610618
N 49 18.260 W 124 25.420