When a new business is chosen to join the Adelaide Central Market, the decision isn’t made lightly. The fit has to be right. “We had to try Cumbia’s food before we approved it as a tenant,” says former Adelaide Central Market general manager Aaron Brumby. “They did this thing called lechona tolimense [a whole roasted pig, stuffed with quinoa and spices]. It's slow-cooked for about nine hours.”
It obviously hit the spot. Cumbia opened its Grote Street doors last week. The South American kitchen and bar is expected to breathe new life and aromas into the market’s northern end. The eatery, named after an indigenous Latin American dance originally used for courtship, serves a menu focused on Colombian flavours.
Owner Salvatore Pittelli grew up in Calabria in the south of Italy. After studying a diploma in hospitality he moved to Adelaide more than 30 years ago. He is the previous owner of Glenelg’s Lido Ristorante and co-started the Veloce Paninoteca group. His Colombian fiancé Julietha Burgos Cañonin influenced his transition into Latin American cuisine after introducing him to the flavours of her homeland.
Colombian chef Luis Carlos Gomez (former executive chef for Nestle) and Tha Sivatha Ngok use the market like their pantry. Desayuno (breakfast) includes bistec a caballo (tender steak and fried eggs with creole sauce), traditional calentado colombiano (fried eggs, chorizo, rice, beans and sweet plantain), and changua (poached eggs in vegetable stock with a dash of milk). Breakfast is served with arepa (Venezuelan/Colombian pancakes made using dry ground corn or precooked corn flour). Plato principal (mains) include sobrebarringa en salsa criolla (beef brisket in criolla sauce, with arepa and avocado), pescado encocado (ling fish with coconut criolla sauce), ajiaco (chicken soup with yellow potato and fresh corn), and corn bread with various toppings. The famed lechona will also be served from the eatery’s takeaway street-food cart. In the glass there’s local wine, South American beer, cider and Colombia-inspired cocktails.
The site is beneath the iconic market arches and was transformed by Cox Architecture. The aesthetic, aimed at fun and frivolity, incorporates a green palette, original brickwork, and tiles. The space seats 20 people and when weather permits, outdoor options are available. The bar and kitchen will open late on Fridays and an upstairs area will be used for private parties.
Pittelli plans to be here for the long haul. “It’s not just about being trendy. Trendy comes and goes. You need to be good, really good. The whole concept has to bond – food, service, everything.”