Posts Categorized: Italian

Croce via di Stasio – the beautiful bar next door


It’s 4.38am. My mouth is dry. My head is sore and I have hangover insomnia (as I call it). Last night I dropped in for a quick bowl of pasta at the new Bar di Stasio. And that’s where I went wrong. There has never been any such thing as a quick bowl of pasta at Cafe di Stasio nor will there ever be such as thing at Bar di Stasio, which last week celebrated its 25th year. I know that about half of you out there are gong to disagree with me here as di Stasio is the kind of place that polarizes people. Even before I’d met (and I should declare been watered) by Ronnie di Stasio or Mallory Wall (pictured at the bar above) I was a big fan of the restaurant. And for me it just gets better by the visit. It’s starts off with the set lunch which I remember as far back as $15 for two courses and a glass of wine. It’s now $35 but you will never get out of there without a mugging by the charm of restaurant’s old school Italian waiters complete in their white jackets, black bowties and, sometimes, dyed black hair. It’s insidious. Perhaps it starts with a glass on impeccably presented Campari ($13). An Aperol Spritz ($15). Or maybe a prosecco ($11). Kerching! Watch out for the bottled water. And that second glass of wine. The caffè corretto (espresso with a shot of grappa) is mandatory. $35 is now $75. And I’ve started drinking so I have to finish off as much as I can from the bar. In possible the most aesthetically designed bar I’ve ever been too – a collaboration between Ronnie, architects and artists – and it happened again. And since I started writing this post it has happened again and again. And again. I sat at the monolithic marble bar imported in two slabs (from Sicily as is the original bar next door) and sealed together in a near invisible paper thin seam. Behind me over the entrance is a fire engine red Callum Mortan sculpture appearing to give structural integrity to the single fronted space. The pale rendered walls are finished to a polish with no addition of paint. It’s just expensive detail in a solid brick and plaster wall. It makes for quality and solidity. It gives you the feeling that… Read more »

Shades of brown at The Spaghetti Tree

Fresh fish doesn’t smell. The seafood crepe ($17) at The Spaghetti Tree smelt acrid, of ammonia. I didn’t even want to taste it and one mouthful was enough to put me off the food for the evening. It was awful in smell, taste, texture and presentation and left barely touched by the three of us. An awkward yeast infection was mentioned and before even the garlic bread ($6.50) could arrive, halfway through our mains, the seafood crepe was renamed the “clap stack”, which was also remarkable as it took 40 minutes to arrive. This was our second attempt to eat here, rejected a fortnight earlier at 10pm because the kitchen had closed, forcing us across the road to Pellegrini’s. Stacks of kitsch But we returned as @melbournebitter had fond memories of the place on trip to the city with an aunt and, more recently, an old school friend. Her heart was set on a mango fan and we determined – over several G&Ts – that she would have her mango fan and eat it, so to speak. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of kitsch, whether it be food or decor. In terms of decor The Spaghetti Tree is stacked with kitsch. It’s great right from the lampshades right down to the brown table coverings, everything you’d expect. The seafood crepe: scratch and sniff. BuI it’s clear from the menu that The Spaghetti Tree’s food is anything that good old retro kitsch. It’s just confused, mainly Italian but with such a lack of confidence in that proposition that it also serves chicken satay ($16). Moroccan lamb salad ($20.50), Peking duck risotto (22.50) and, believe it or not, Tandoori Chicken ($27.50). And back to the mango fan. In my minds eye I imagined a bright orange mango fanned out over a chicken breast on the plate of what was billed as “Grilled chicken breast topped with a mango fan, Camembert cheese and served with a brandy/mango sauce. Served with potatoes and vegetables.” Spot the mango fan. It soon became clear what the theme to this restaurant was. It’s not Italian food, or the theatrical paraphernalia, but the colour brown. The whole place has a brown feel to it. The wipe clean table cloth was brown, the place mats were brown and so was the majority of the food. And thus the mango which was’t fanned and was cooked, fibrous and brown,… Read more »