HOT: Ovest, 572 Barkly St, West Footscray

Ovest 572 Barkly St West Footscray 4 HOT: Ovest, 572 Barkly St, West Footscray

Hooray! Good pizza arrives in Barkly Street West Footscray thanks to Ovest (which means ‘west’ in Italian but also unfortunately clashes with the name of the Footscray Hospital cafeteria and a vaginal cream!).

Ovest is a project of passionate westies Alex Rogers of Seddon’s Sourdough Kitchen, and Ben Sisley, the former head chef at St Kilda pizzeria Mr Wolf.

The modernist building used to house the ANZ bank and Serbian social club and now it contains a shiny Spanish stone-deck electric oven that churns out delicious pizzas six days a week.

Ovest 572 Barkly St West Footscray 2 HOT: Ovest, 572 Barkly St, West Footscray

The menu includes entrees of mostly fried things (saganaki, calamari, fritters) plus sizzling garlic prawns and buffalo mozzarella served with bresaola and figs. The mains include a tuna nicoise salad, lasagna, cannelloni and daily roast pulled from the same pizza oven.

Pizzas are the name of the game here, with fourteen to choose from (gluten free bases are an extra $1). They are large do I recommend one between two.

I particularly like their margherita, which is fragrant with fresh basil and melted buffalo mozzarella ($17.50), as well as the prawn pizza with a bianco base (ie olive oil, no passata) generously topped with cubes of zucchini, chilli, mint, ricotta and fior de latte ($21).

Ovest 572 Barkly St West Footscray 1 HOT: Ovest, 572 Barkly St, West Footscray

We’ve tried the pizzas both eat in and takeaway and can highly recommend them. The bases are crisp rather than chewy so whether you like it depends on your personal preference – but the toppings are excellent, full of flavour and colour. The first time we tried the pizzas we did think that they contained too much residual oil but this has not been the case on subsequent visits.

Ovest 572 Barkly St West Footscray 3 HOT: Ovest, 572 Barkly St, West Footscray

For dessert we shared a rich dark chocolate mousse ($10) and vanilla flecked yoghurt panna cotta in a glass with mango jelly ($10). Both were pretty good without being amazing so if you’re too full from pizza then give them a miss.

Ovest 572 Barkly St West Footscray 7 HOT: Ovest, 572 Barkly St, West Footscray

We visited on the third day of opening and found the service a bit chaotic (incorrect reservation, slow to serve, missing cutlery) but hopefully those glitches have been smoothed over now. Also note that the industrial space of metal and timber floors can get very loud and I think a few softening touches in the decor would help with the noise levels. It was half full on our visit and already too loud for easy conversation.

Ovest 572 Barkly St West Footscray 6 HOT: Ovest, 572 Barkly St, West Footscray

Ovest is a great local pizzeria for an easy dinner with family and friends and as a fussy pizza eater I think it makes the best pizzas in the inner west that I’ve tried so far.

Ovest, 572 Barkly St, West Footscray (03) 9687 7766

Tue-Sun 5pm-late

minilink HOT: Ovest, 572 Barkly St, West Footscray

 

HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 4 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

Mio Locale fills a culinary and coffee gap in an odd no-man’s land section of Brunswick Street.

Fitzroy’s abundant supply of cafe and shopping scene peters out abruptly at Alexandra Parade and don’t really resume again until you hit North Fitzroy village. The new Bellini apartments have now been completed on the corner of Alexandra Parade and Brunswick Street and part of the development is Mio Locale.

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 3 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

The concrete shell, decorated with black glossy tiles and brass trims, is small but welcoming. They manage to make almost all their food in house, other than the bread which comes from Dench Bakers in North Fitzroy.

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 10 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 8 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

The owners are a sister-brother team of Italian heritage and they pride themselves on sourcing local produce, using fresh, seasonal ingredients for their breakfast and lunch menu.

This translates to a small menu of accessible cafe dishes with an Italian twist, generously portioned, and brought to your table with a smile. I was invited to try the cafe with my family.

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 13 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

To start we had a pear and cinnamon smoothie and a yoghurt-based berry smoothie. Both sweet and filling and enough of a meal on their own.

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 12 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

The creamy and nutty coffee came from Strada Coffee and they source their tea from organic Chamellia Tea.

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 7 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

For something simple, done well, go for the Fancy Pants Toastie ($13). It’s an melting ham and cheese toasted sandwich, crowed with a fried egg and with the crusts neatly lopped off. A dab of housemade relish rests on the side. Personally I prefer crusty sandwiches so I’m sure you can just ask for them to keep the crusts on!

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 11 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

I decided to choose the heartier dish of chickpeas with Calabrian salami, sugo, spinach and garum ($16). It was full of punchy, vibrant flavours and exactly the kind of dish best finish with a mopping of bread. It kept me going for most of the day, though if you’re looking for extra protein you can choose to add a poached egg.

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 6 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North 5 HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

The pastries, cakes and biscuits are all house made and I just fell in love with the huge yo-yos filled with mocha cream, a steal at $2.50.

Mio Locale is just a stone’s throw from picnic hotspot Edinburgh Gardens, so it’s fitting that they provide picnic packs for those who don’t fancy catering their own spread. They are also waiting on a liquor licence so that they can start opening in the evening to turn Mio Locale into a wine bar.

I wish Mio Locale was my local! But lucky northsiders can enjoy it seven days a week.

Mio Locale, 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North 03 9489 4747

Mon-Fri 7am-4pm

Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

minilink HOT: Mio Locale 465 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North

HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote


Il Melograno 76 High Street Northcote 15 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

I am a gelato snob. Nothing gives me more joy in a gelateria than seeing a row of gleaming metal pozzetti tubs – because it’s the best indication of good quality gelati without actually tasting it. As soon as I walked into Il Melograno (‘The Pomegranate Tree) in Northcote I knew that I was in for a treat.

DSC08899 540x404 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

Gelati made the traditional way contains real fruit and nuts, high quality cream and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. It disintegrates quickly and the metal containers help preserve the gelato in its best condition. An Australian gelateria that takes the time and expense to import pozzetti from Italy cares greatly about the quality of its product. And they’ve imported a Sicilian gelato maker to boot!

Il Melograno 76 High Street Northcote 8 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

I tried the pure milk fior di latte, the vibrant pink strawberry with crushed pips still evident and the exotic sounding Iranian pistachio and hazelnut, nubbly with crushed nuts. They were all fresh-tasting and had a fluffy lightness in texture that comes with being just-churned. Plus you can even eat the cups!

The gelati was so good I knew I wanted more of it…but I thought I’d probably better have lunch.

Il Melograno 76 High Street Northcote 5 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

I found a sunny nook in their narrow Italianate courtyard, complete with a lemon tree, and settled down in inspect their mostly Italian inspired breakfast and lunch menu.

Il Melograno 76 High Street Northcote 10 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

The sandwiches come on super-crusty loaves and traditional fillings such as melt-in-the-mouth San Daniele proscuitto, buffalo mozzarella, tomato and rocket ($14).

Il Melograno 76 High Street Northcote 1 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

I also tried a bowl of their hand-rolled fusilli, thin cigarillos capturing a creamy sauce of swiss brown mushrooms, pancetta and rocket ($17).

Il Melograno 76 High Street Northcote 2 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

For dessert instead of gelato again I compromised with the oven-baked pancake which came with a dollop of gelato. This was a rather dense and wet cake and while flavoursome probably not one of the better whole-pan style hot cakes I’ve had in terms of texture.

Il Melograno 76 High Street Northcote 12 HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

If you’re still in the mood for sweets then a family friend of the owner makes all the authentic Italian cakes and pastries on the counter top. The coffee comes from the wood bean roaster housed inside a glass room.

Il Melograno is the perfect Italian pit-stop enroute to Westgarth Cinema but it’s so good that it’s worth a special trip. It’s one of my Top 10 places to enjoy gelato in Melbourne, check out the rest of the list.

Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote, 9482 2092

Tue to Sun 11am–10.30pm

minilink HOT: Il Melograno, 76 High Street, Northcote

HOT: Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

Fox in the Corn 4 Droop Street Footscray 2 HOT: Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

It’s a good thing my paleo diet experiment died in its early stages (‘Faileo?’), as it means that I can eat my way through the fresh pasta available at Fox in the Corn in Footscray seven days a week.

Fox in the Corn is a new venture from the founders of Millgrove Pasta in Williamstown. Five years after establishing their wholesale pasta business, they’ve decided to re-inject Mediterranean fare back into Asian and African-dominated Footscray.

Fox in the Corn 4 Droop Street Footscray 3 HOT: Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

The space is handsome and light-filled. Plywood black padded booths hug a U-shape around the white-subway-tiled bar (they’re still waiting on their liquor licence and will serve craft beers as soon as it’s approved). There are a few subtle hints of greenery here and there, including a giant terrarium.

Fox in the Corn 4 Droop Street Footscray 6 HOT: Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

The menu is a one-page affair. There are three simple starters – olives, jamon, pickled octopus – a green salad and a caprese salad. The main event is the pasta and you can choose between fettuccine or ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta or beef (+ $3).

The difficulty is in selecting a sauce. There are eleven to choose from, with a pasta served with house made napoli starting at $12.50 to most expensive dish being smoked salmon cream, rocket and capers ($18).

Fox in the Corn 4 Droop Street Footscray 5 HOT: Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

I decided on fettuccine with slow cooked beef ragu with spring onion ($17.50) and ravioli with pancetta, leek and tomato with panko and parsley ($16.50). Both dishes were generously sized and two dishes could easily feed three people.

Fox in the Corn 4 Droop Street Footscray 4 HOT: Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

The fettucine ribbons were squiggly and slightly chewy, as good handmade pasta should be. The ravioli had a good proportion of filling vs casing and was similarly cooked al dente. Of the two sauces I preferred the pancetta as it had a complexity of flavour from the chunks of smoky pancetta that the ragu (what most of us know as bolognaise) lacked. Though I was impressed by the beef, which is minced in house.

For dessert there’s a range of Gundowring flavours ($4.50) but we were so full from our pasta that we didn’t need anything else.

Fox in the Corn is one of a kind in Footscray and I think it will do well. They’re open 11am-11pm which means we could have a kid-friendly dinner at 5pm. The pasta is excellent quality and the sauces are vibrant and fresh, with enough options to suit every taste. If you’re not in the mood for a meal then they also serve a weekly rotation of coffee beans from Monk Bodhi Dharma.

Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

Daily 11am-11pm

minilink HOT: Fox in the Corn, 4 Droop Street, Footscray

HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

Pidapipo 3 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

Pipapipo is a new addition to the Lygon Street ice cream/gelato strip and in a prime position across the road from Cinema Nova. You can’t miss it because there is a big red neon sign proclaiming ‘gelateria’ in the window.

According to this fascinating article, you can generally judge the quality of gelati from 15 feet, without actually smelling, touching or tasting the product. You just need to look for a couple of things:

  1. No fake colours in the fruit flavours.
  2. How the gelati is stored and displayed.
  3. Seasonal fruit flavours offered.
  4. Translucency in the lemon gelato.
  5. Do they offer fior di latte or fior di panna, which exposes the quality of the milk/cream?
  6. Do they offer hazelnut – gram for gram the most expensive gelato to produce?

Pipapipo scores 6 out of 6 but it really deserves a taste test.

Pidapipo 1 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

The marble counter curves around the width of the relatively small, pastel-coloured shop. There are a few tables inside and out but it’s more of a walk-in, walk-out scenario.

Every day up to twenty flavours fill stainless steel pozzetti, which keep the temperature of the gelato constant so it doesn’t freeze, melt and refreeze. Flavours range from traditional to modern, fruity to rich. Hiding the flavours under lids is a pretty good indicator of how good the gelato will be – there’s no need to show it off in high, brightly hued mounds.

Pidapipo 299 Lygon Street Carlton HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

The owner Lisa Valmorbida is of Italian heritage and trained at Carpigiani Gelato University in Italy then worked in a gelateria in Vicenza. The gelato is churned daily on site using the best imported Italian and local ingredients. The pistachios are from Bronte, Sicily, the best hazelnuts in the world from Piedmont, Warrnambool Jersey milk, ricotta from La Formaggeria and the honey and fresh honeycomb from the rooftop hives by Honey Fingers.  Absolutely no artificial flavours or colours.

Pidapipo 2 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

Their hazelnut is powerfully nutty and velvety on the tongue, not a hint of grittiness or powdery aftertaste. The fior di latte is creamy and pure in flavour – it requires no adornment, not even vanilla beans (the traditional no-flavour flavoured ice cream).

Pidapipo 299 Lygon Street Carlton 2 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

I like my gelato simple but you can jazz yours up with a cone filled with liquid Nutella or Valrhona chocolate on top, sandwiched inside a fat Sicilian brioche bun or even thrown in a coke float (an ice cream spider in my vernacular).

For the quality of the goods the prices are   very reasonable too – $4 for a single flavour, $6 for two flavours and $7 for three flavours. 1kg take home tubs are $10 and prettily wrapped in their pastel-coloured geometric paper.

Pidapipo 299 Lygon Street Carlton 5 HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

Pipapipo is my new favourite gelateria  – I was invited to their launch and have been back almost weekly since. With this heat wave we’re experiencing no doubt they will do very well this summer.

Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton, (03) 9347 4596

Mon – Sun: 12:00pm to 11:00pm

minilink HOT: Pidapipo, 299 Lygon Street, Carlton

HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 7 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Crowning the world’s best margherita pizza is a big ask….but Johnny Di Francesco, chef and owner of  Brunswick pizzeria 400 Gradi was awarded this accolade by the judges at World Pizza Championships in Italy in April 2014.

Luckily for Melburnians, 400 Gradi has just expanded into their second restaurant at Crown and it serves the same fantastic pizzas and other traditional Italian and Neapolitan dishes as the original restaurant.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 4 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank
I was invited to a first taste of Gradi at Crown’s menu and I can attest that every single dish was delicious, authentic and well-presented. A dining experience that was almost flawless from start to finish.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 1 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

At the entrance to Gradi at Crown you’re greeted by a large rack of salumi and enormous wheels of cheese. In fact as soon as you walk into the restaurant you smell cured meats, not pizza!

On the left of the salumi counter is a Venetian-style cicchetti bar where you can snack on freshly cut salumi and formaggi over a glass or two of Italian wine. All the cheese is imported from Italy while the majority of the salumi is also imported from Italy with a few Australian exceptions, such as the mortadella.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 3 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

On the right stretches a massive dining space with cosy chocolate easy chairs and a combination of large and small tables. I particularly liked the communal marble-topped table overhung with glistening copper pots as decoration.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 2 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The copper motif extends to the two glorious wood fired ovens presiding over the pizza making station. The two ovens were in constant use during our dinner, doling out pizza after pizza from its fiery depths.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 6 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Our dinner started with a selection of salumi served atop a thin wafer of Sardinian ‘carasau’ bread. My favourite was the Prosciutto Crudo Mornello 18month ($6.50 for 30g, $14 for 70g), thinly sliced and meltingly tender. I don’t know what they feed those pigs but the prosciutto tasted distinctly of soy sauce (the quality Japanese stuff, not Maggi)! Umami heaven.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 13 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

From the formaggi selection I enjoyed the novelty of the Bello Lodi Raspadura, which comes in big wheels with shavings slipped into a neat paper bag ($6 for 30g, $13 for 70g). A couple of slivers dissolved on the tongue was just perfect.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 14 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The antipasti selection is mostly about beef and seafood. The standout was the only version of surf and turf that I condone – vitello tonnato ($19). A platter of finely sliced slow cooked beef, served cold with a velvety sauce of tuna, mascarpone, mayonnaise and fat, not too salty, capers.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 11 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

For those not watching their waistline too much I urge you to try the montanare fritte. I wasn’t sure what they were based on the description on the menu and I was expecting small dough balls.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 10 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Montanare fritte turned out to be deep fried pizza dough crowned with savoury toppings ($15 for 3). Plump pillows of featherlight dough – a dangerously addictive savoury doughnut! My favourite topping was the ‘classica’ with San Marzano tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil and parmesan, full of sunny margherita pizza flavours.

Which turns me to the main event – the pizza. Chef Johnny Di Francesco is the first Australian ever trained in Naples to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana rules. There are fourteen choices on the menu, all traditional combinations. They don’t offer gluten-free pizza as so much flour gets scattered around the kitchen that it’d be impossible to manage the potential cross-contamination (though they do offer gluten-free pasta on request).

The margherita ($21) and the caserta ($25.50) were the standouts. Is it the best margherita pizza in the world? I’m not the authoritative judge of that but these pizzas ticked all the right boxes for me.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 9 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

Smoky, yeasty, slightly chewy crust that wasn’t soggy. Simple toppings with quality, high flavour ingredients. The caserta had the extra edge over the margherita, thanks to that 18 month prosciutto again.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 8 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

If you’re an unadulterated carb lover then you can find more dough in the dessert menu. Gradi at Crown offer calzone with nutella and ricotta or coffee and mascarpone ($15).

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 5 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The excellent crust meant that the molten filling didn’t turn the whole package into a soggy mess. In terms of flavour I preferred the coffee over the nutella (normally my favourite) as I found the mixture of ricotta made the filling heavier and diluted the telltale choc-hazelnut sweetness.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 12 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The dessert menu also offers tiramisu ($15), sweetly served in a pot-bellied jar and well-balanced in its layering of mascarpone and sponge, coffee and port liqueur.

Gradi at Crown Shop 25 8 Whiteman Street Southbank 15 HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

The dark chocolate fondant ($15) was similarly perfect, with a release of molten chocolate lava upon spoon entry and a spongy exterior.

The only downfall of the desserts was that they appeared to be served with mass-produced vanilla ice cream, a curious anomaly to a menu otherwise concerned with top quality produce and the provenance of ingredients.

My dinner at Gradi at Crown was an excellent way to carb-load to a satisfied tummy. Their pizzas are certainly contenders for some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten but they don’t fall short in other parts of their menu either. Go the dough!

Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank 03 9696 9888

minilink HOT: Gradi at Crown, Shop 25, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank

HOT: Olivigna, 54-56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 3 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Love the idea of sunning yourself in Tuscany but can’t afford the airfare? Believe it or not, a little bit of Italy can be found at Olivigna at Warrandyte South, just 30 minutes from Melbourne.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 6 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Drive up to Olivigna, surrounded by tall cypress trees, and it’s like driving up towards the Tuscan hills. The 20 acre property contains olive groves, a vineyard, orchard and garden, with a rustic stone restaurant, La Sala, at its centre.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 1 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 5 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

The restaurant is large and bright and provides stunning views over the rolling hills of Warrandyte/Tuscany. I particularly loved the enormous gothic chandeliers presiding over the massive fireplace and the dining hum full of families and celebration.

The site is a dream and work in progress for the owners, Black Salt Catering’s Anna Gallo and developer John Di Pietro. Their love of the place is evident from all the small touches in the restaurant, such as the wooden shoe lasts picked up from France to use as coat racks.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 19 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

As part of Olivigna mission to be an Italianate food and wine destination, they hold regularly Italian cooking classes on site. I was invited to a pasta making class at Olivigna which took place on one side of La Sala with Piera Benini, the restaurant’s pasta chef and a native of Bologna (a city known for its food and has the nickname ‘Fat Bologna’). I’ve previously sampled Piera’s pasta magic at Ladro Greville so she knows her stuff.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 18 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 14 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 8 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Over 2 hours Piera showed us how to make pasta from start to finish, from combining the dough to rolling it to cutting it.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 17 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 7 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

After our morning’s instruction the kitchen, headed by chef chef Colin Swalwell (ex Yering Station), made our lunch while we were ushered to enjoy our handiwork in the private dining room, a space inspired by a traditional wine cellar/cave.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 21 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

To start we enjoyed some freshly sliced prosciutto and house grown olives and fresh bread from the enormous wood oven accompanied by housemade olive oil (bottled just 3 days before).

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 16 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

 

Our feast continued with three different types of pasta – the tortellini we made, pappardelle with traditional napoli sauce and a surprise third dish, the restaurant’s signature Scaliatelli alle Vongole with clams, sweet zucchini and a touch of chilli. Our meal was served with a glass of Olivigna‘s own wine.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 4 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

If you enjoyed your meal you can even take some of it home from the Olivigna food store. There you will find award-winning olive oils, caramelised onion jam and preserves that are all made on site plus the estate’s wines.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 2 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

After your meal have a stroll around the gardens, sit by the open fire pit with a hot toddy or try your hand at the bocce court.

Olivigna 54 56 Brumbys Road Warrandyte South 12 HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

Olivigna is such an unexpected find in Melbourne and it truly does bring a sense of Italy to  our city. Get away from the city on a sunny weekend and bask in stunning scenery straight out of Under the Tuscan Sun while dining on fresh, local and home-grown produce from the estate. If you want to get hands-on with your Italian cooking, sign up to one of their masterclasses – a perfect Father’s Day outing or gift perhaps?

Olivigna, 54-56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South (03) 9844 4676

Upcoming master classes on desserts, pasta, salami, gourmet sausages. $120-$130 including lunch and a glass of Sangiovese

La Sala Restaurant

Wednesday to Sunday 11:30am – 3:30pm (4:30pm on Sunday)

Wednesday – Saturday 5.30pm – 9.00pm

 
minilink HOT: Olivigna, 54 56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South

HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

DSC00421 1024x680 HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

Southgate Moveable Feasts are a restaurant crawl through Southgate’s revamped restaurant precinct running until Monday 4 August for Sunday lunch and Monday dinners.

Your host will take you on a journey through three Southgate restaurants for an entree, main course and dessert. It’s a great way to sample different restaurants in one go and you definitely won’t leave hungry!

Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi Amarok and Bluetrain Southgate Complex 3 Southgate Ave Southbank 6 HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

I was invited to sample a Southgate Moveable Feast for Sunday lunch. We started off at Southgate’s newest venue, the Italian restaurant Artusi which is owned by the same people as Tutto Bene. The head chef also comes after several years at Tutto Bene.

Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi Amarok and Bluetrain Southgate Complex 3 Southgate Ave Southbank 4 HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

It’s a handsome venue, full of warm copper tones and a sleek interior design. I think the spacing of the tables could be loosened a bit – I could barely get out of my seat and the waiters had to shuffle sideways to reach me.

Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi Amarok and Bluetrain Southgate Complex 3 Southgate Ave Southbank 5 HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

From Artusi I chose the wood roasted Berkshire pork belly, pomelo, endive slaw, chilli and colatura di Alici (anchovy water). The presentation was a bit unrefined but in flavour it was excellent, with soft melting meat combined with the tang of citrus and the faint bitterness of the endives.

Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi Amarok and Bluetrain Southgate Complex 3 Southgate Ave Southbank 8 HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

For mains we trundled to Amarok Bar & Restaurant, possibly the only Native American restaurant in Melbourne and which adjoins the Ice Bar, Australia’s only ice bar. While the interior is all wood cabin/ski chalet, don’t worry you won’t be expected to eat whale or seal.

Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi Amarok and Bluetrain Southgate Complex 3 Southgate Ave Southbank 3 HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

The menu is better described as Modern Australian with some Native American touches and techniques – such as the ample use of corn, wrapping meats to cook over coals (or a hot oven) and flavouring sauces with pine needles and wild berries.

Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi Amarok and Bluetrain Southgate Complex 3 Southgate Ave Southbank 2 HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

Case in point, I chose the Pouch Baked Salmon in Corn Mead with Lemon, Fresh Herb & Grape Quinoa Salad. Cooking fish en papillote ensured juicy, tender fish and the refreshing salad rounded off a relatively light option – although the serving was enormous!

Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi Amarok and Bluetrain Southgate Complex 3 Southgate Ave Southbank 1 HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

Last stop was the Southgate stalwart Bluetrain, repositioned in a new area of the centre with expansive windows overlooking the Yarra.

Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi Amarok and Bluetrain Southgate Complex 3 Southgate Ave Southbank 7 HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

From the dessert menu I tried the ‘Layered childhood memories’. Who can resist a dessert with this description? ‘Layers of chocolate cake, roasted hazelnut & peanut salted caramel, choc fudge, mascarpone, fresh berries & milo ice-cream’! It was a decadent as it sounded, with my only quibble being a rather stodgy and dry chocolate cake that was not quite cake nor brownie.

I had an enjoyable time at Southgate Moveable Feasts and it encouraged me to try the venues separately on another day. My only main issue with the event was the timing. It was slated to start at 12pm and finish at 3pm but our entrees were not served until 1pm, main course at 2:30pm and dessert was around 4pm. While I appreciate the decadence of a long lunch I had other appointments that afternoon and I think it’s important to stick to the advertised timeframe when you’re moving and feeding groups of people.

Southgate Moveable Feasts are being on each Sunday and Monday night from 12 noon Sundays and 7pm Mondays. The restaurant combinations are different for each date and you can choose between three course dining options for $60pp or $85pp. Entrée and main courses both include a glass of wine and dessert is served with tea or coffee.

Click here for the full Moveable Feasts Program.

Southgate Moveable Feasts, Southgate Precinct, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

Artusi, Southgate Precinct, UR1 Upper level, 3 Southgate Avenue, Southbank 03 8199 1033

minilink HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

Amarok Bar & Restaurant,  Southgate Precinct, Mid Level, MR6, 3 Southgate Avenue, Southbank 03 9663 1877

minilink HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

Bluetrain, Southgate Landing, Southbank 03 9696 0111

minilink HOT: Southgate Moveable Feasts at Artusi, Amarok and Bluetrain, Southgate Precint, 3 Southgate Ave, Southbank

HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 1 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

Romulus and Remus are characters from Roman mythology – which quickly gives you an idea of the kind of cuisine you can expect from this restaurant in Bridge Road Richmond.

I was invited to sample some items from their broadly Italian menu which is all about ‘modern day feasting’. This translates to sharing plates, hearty food, generous serves and convivial surroundings.

If you didn’t know that Romulus and Remus was there it’d easy to miss. While Bridge Road is renowned as a shopping strip there are not the kind of shops or restaurants to invite foot traffic down the bottom end of Bridge Road before it crosses the Yarra.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 3 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 5 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

Romulus and Remus is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. You can choose to sit at the bar (where there are a selection of beers pouring from the custom made glistening copper taps), take a curvaceous booth for a romantic date or draw a chair at one of the super-long communal tables for a long lunch.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 4 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

I particularly liked the square planter boxes turned tables which basked in the sun’s rays and through which spindly olive trees grew. On the other hand the moody private dining room for 12-14 diners evoked a breezy autumn, with wheat sheafs as a decorative feature and a huge photograph of a golden tree overlooking the table.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 7 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

The head chef Matt English has worked in various Italian restaurants around town and the menu lists fuss-free, traditional Italian food. I tried one of the signature dishes, crispy gnocchi served on a pea puree with chorizo, goat’s cheese, drizzled with truffle oil ($25).

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 6 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

The pan-frying created a crisp little outer shell on each fluffy nugget – I’ll never eat boiled gnocchi again. The classic pairing of peas and chorizo made this a very satisfying and hearty dish for an autumn day, all at a very reasonable price point. The only very minor quibble was that I couldn’t really discern any aroma or flavours of truffle present with the truffle oil.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 2 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

I was also offered a heaving platter of salumi, freshly sliced from the shiny cabinet ($26 for 3). Most of the salumi is imported from Italy while the antipasti is marinated in-house – together with some crusty bread you really can’t go wrong.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 9 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

The menu also includes pizza, main dishes and large cuts of meat to be shared, such as a whole suckling pig for 10-12 people. The darling little cakes in the cabinet come from nearby Humble Patisserie in Hawthorn.

Romulus and Remus 648 Bridge Road Richmond 8 HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

The experience I had at Romulus and Remus makes me hope that they can make a go of the huge industrial space that they’ve inhabited (which used to be an indoor golf range!). There’s something for every Italianophile there. So bring your appetite for the feast!

Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road Richmond (03) 9429 3042

Mon to Thurs 12pm-10pm
Fri to Sun 12pm-10.30pm

minilink HOT: Romulus and Remus, 648 Bridge Road, Richmond

 

HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 8 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane is a much-awarded Italian restaurant stalwart in Melbourne and their recent revamp in décor drips of old school glamour with a capital G.

My memories of Cecconi’s was as a place of celebratory feasting with friends, romantic tete-a-tetes and even a wedding.

I was invited to sample their new seasonal menu and it appears that the relaunch has not changed Cecconi’s approach. It’s still a fine dining establishment which knows how to deliver a complete experience in food, service and ambience.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 2 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Tottering down the basement steps your first view is of the quiet, well-ordered open plan kitchen centre stage. As well as being practical, the hanging copper pots and pans lent a warm glow to the surroundings and touches of copper were echoed in some of the other décor such as the wall lights.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 1 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Near the stylish bar there’s a subtle nod to the Cecconi’s heritage with the framed portraits of family members hanging on the back wall.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 10 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

I was also particularly taken by the huge dome pendant lamps with a delicately ornate etchings on the porcelain inner. Overall the look is sharp and polished – a place to impress.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 6 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 7 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

To start we were offered some smart canapés – melting San Daniele prosciutto twisted around long grissini and mushroom arancini with garlicky aoili to name a few.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 3 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 4 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Then, the first course – a heady truffle and parmesan risotto. A creamy, earthy dish lifted to decadence by the extravagant amount of freshly shaved black truffle spiking the plate.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 11 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Second course was Chatham Island Blue Cod, confit tomato, fennel, fried zucchini flower from the owner’s garden and a drizzle of aged balsamic. The fish was perfectly pan-fried with a slight hint of crispness on the outer edges, which meant that I would have preferred the zucchini flower to be more lightly battered as I felt overall that the textural balance was on the dry side.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 13 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

The dish of the night was twice cooked duck and the most luxurious sweet potato puree. Who knows how much cream or butter was whisked into that puree but it was like eating marshmallow. The duck was perfectly cooked, simultaneously juice and crispy.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 9 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Dessert was a jar of caramel pannacotta layered with broken wild fig cake and macadamia ice cream. I felt that serving the pannacotta in a jar diminished its impact somewhat as the other ingredients dominated the palate before your spoon hit the bottom. Nevertheless, an artful twist on an Italian classic.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar 61 Flinders Ln Melbourne 12 HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Based on my dinner it seems that Cecconi’s will be continuing on with what it does best – fine dining without stuffiness, Italian food without fussiness and a place that’s sure to impress your parents, your friends or your date.

Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne  03 8663 0500

Monday – Friday 12:00pm-12:00am

Saturday 5:30pm-12:00am

minilink HOT: Cecconi’s Flinders Lane Restaurant and Cellar Bar, 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne