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This building with its wide veranda, has housed any number of businesses, but it’s been stable as a restaurant since Richard Masani took over nearly 25 years ago, which is quite a feat in the nervous world of Carlton restaurants. Even better, Richard says he plans to be around for the next 25. The space is a classic example of Victorian architecture, with very high ceilings and generous proportions. It’s been brought up to date for its restaurant life with a modernisation that added carpet to the main dining area (all the better for conversation) and opened up the cellar space. In summer it feels cool, and in winter the huge fireplace comes into its own.
The setting (tables covered with double white cloths) gives an indication of a serious meal ahead. The food is Italian, with some light modern touches and good use of Australian ingredients. The menu changes seasonally and there are always specials. Look out for the cacciucco, a great Ligurian seafood dish somewhere between a stew and a soup, or a classic costoletta alla Milanese, here a veal cutlet coated with ciabatta and parmesan crumbs and served with silverbeet. Start with one of the pasta dishes, or a salmon carpaccio. The wine list is extensive, including lots of Italian choices and an unusually good range of older cabernets.
Rita Erlich, December 2007