PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Let's get the location exactly right: Johnston Street extends from Carlton to Abbotsford, and renumbers itself along the way. Porcino is a few doors east (that's the Abbotsford side) of Smith Street. It's a good idea to book ahead because it's very small and popular. Décor-wise, it's a smart little place with tiled floors, dramatically painted red walls, arty light fittings and white-clothed tables.
Porcino is family-run, which gives it a friendly energy; Grace Fazio, her brother Tony and his wife Trina are the driving forces. The menu changes every six weeks but there are certain constants. Among the starters, I love the semolina-dusted fried calamari with lemon and marinated green olives. The gnocchi, light as miniature feather pillows, are to dream about. The range of main courses is small but well chosen – there is always good fish and good steak. Choosing between them is a pleasant problem – whether to have, say, baked blue eye with cannellini beans and leeks in a rich tomato sauce, or just to go with a pizza. There's an extensive range of toppings to flavour the deliciously thin crusts, even yummier with one of the Italian drops off the very decent wine list. Because Porcino is small, it's not really suitable for large groups; but if you can't get a table there's always takeaway available.