PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Melbourne's laneways account for some of the city's most interesting eating – and, to be honest, some of its least appetising. Solarino is in the first category. Its owners and chef have a good track-record (Dale is co-owner of Panette in South Melbourne, Grant has cooked at a range of good city Italian restaurants), and they have created a place so clever it's surprising no one thought of it before. It's more than a cafe, but not a formal restaurant. Solarino is smart but simple with a pressed metal ceiling at the front, white walls, a polished concrete floor and bare-topped tables. It's relaxing and comfortable, but still stylish.
After breakfast, the menu consists of pasta dishes and salads, with a few tempting desserts to finish. We're talking real pasta dishes here too – the kind you might find in a small Italian village. Imagine potato gnocchi as soft as little pillows, surrounded by a richly flavoured tomato sauce with a few basil leaves and melted fontina cheese on top, all served in a hot pan that sits on a wooden board. Think of salads that range from plain green to the rich purple of radicchio with pear, hazelnuts and pecorino. A short wine list provides the perfect drop by the glass or bottle to accompany your meal. Breakfast has the same simple star quality – excellent bread from Daylesford, omelettes with chives and goat's cheese, roasted Swiss brown mushrooms on toast, just to name a few.