Monday, January 31, 2011

Cafe di Stasio, Melbourne

Keeping the Italian theme going, although outside the country of Italy this time.

I have 2 favourite Italian restaurants in Melbourne: Florentino and Cafe di Stasio. Being the last day of summer, or at least the last day of holidays and the last day of January, I decided to give myself a treat - the start of the new working year.

Cafe di Stasio would have to be the find of the century. In addition to their fabulous a la carte menu, almost everyday of the year they also offer a "Slow Food - Seasonal Lunch", which at $35 is an absolute gift. For this cost you choose from the weekly changing seasonal lunch menu and get 2 courses (either appetizer & main , or main and dolce, or appetizer and dolce) together with a bicchiere of wine, bread, caffe AND superb service and superb ambience.

Long time Maitre d' Mallory Wall, in colourful yellow sunflower pattened summer peacoat, greeted me at the door and didn't flinch when I responded that no, I didn't have a booking, and yes, I was eating solo (or sola). You get the same excellent service whether you're having the $35 special or the more (much more) expensive lunch.

On a day the temperature was predicted to hit 39 degrees, the room was cool and comfortable, with protective glare blinds at half mast onto Fitzroy Street and the lighting in the rustic terracotta head / mask wall lighting suitably subdued. The excess cutlery was removed before I sat. On request a glass of iced water was served as I perused the Slow Food Seasonal Lunch menu. A waiter delivered a small bowl of salt, carefully placed at the far side of my table-for-two, and then the butter bowl was placed in line. The generous slice of thick crispy bread, still warm, was served elegantly with 2 spoons. Additional appropriate cutlery was set after my selection of food (3 options for each of the first two courses). My selected wine, a Yarra Valley Airlie Bank Shiraz Viognier 2008, was poured, and when my water glass was almost empty another waiter quietly appeared to refill it from a cold jug.

My Quaglie alla Griglia con Rucola was tender, succulent and the quail cooked to perfection. Music softly playing... was it Simone? Next to me, a business table of five: from their talk, well-travelled guests in publications and IT, not all known to each other. One had just had the best holiday ever, taking his young family to New Zealand. Seated behind me, a quieter couple enjoying an intimate lunch break together.

Calamari alla Griglia was served with a small unpretentious salad of fresh rosy red tomatoes, rucola, mint, zucchini and fennel. The calamari was smoky grilled, slightly overpowering with taste and smell of the smoke, but still delicious.

A toilet break. Modern Italian fixtures and spotless, of course. When I returned from my ablutions, my serviette had been folded and returned to the table: everything else except my wine and water glasses, had been cleared.

A fine hot-enough Lavazza espresso caffe with good crema was served: milk and sugar separately so that I could make my caffe machiato as I like it.

A fabulous relaxing hour and a half... great food and suitably spolied and off to work.