Bucci restaurant began in Port Douglas, before opening in sleek, competitive James Street in 2012. But thanks to the attitude of owners Shaun and Tanja Malone and Diane and Mike Lisle-Williams, that hasn’t meant losing the fun, pretense-free vibe of the tropics.

The open, elegant design of the restaurant was driven by the Lisle-Williams’ desire to make something as close to a street-style, piazza feel in an indoor setting as possible. It works, imparting a vibe that’s both intimate and airy.

You can see right into the kitchen, where head chef Shaun Malone and his young staff assemble plate after plate of fresh, beautiful food.

There’s a lightness of touch to every dish served that sets Bucci apart from most Italian joints. You won’t find creamy, bacon-y sauces here. The closest thing is a hot-smoked-salmon spaghetti with herbed creme fraiche dressing.

The focus is on detail, such as the charred sweet leeks to accompany smoky swordfish, or the simplicity of perfectly cooked octopus and tangy aioli.

With Bucci’s award-winning list of Australian, New Zealand and Italian wines, it might be hard to save room for a digestif. But it’s well worth the short, full-bellied step to the intimate attached bar. The signature cocktails you’ll find there are inspired by the sweet liqueurs that finish a real Italian meal.

Updated: April 23rd, 2021

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