Caffe e Cucina, South Yarra
Food: Antipasto, Carpaccio di Manzo, Passatelli ai Funghi Porcini e Pecorino, Fish of the day, Patate Fritte, Caprese
You know you’re in a real Italian restaurant when the waiter uses the word “prego” over and over (Serious travel tip: this is the only word you need to know in Italian to travel there, just practice saying it 100 different ways). Caffe e Cucina is dark and cosy, paying homage to a traditional trattoria in its decor, while giving that ristorante-quality food and service.
The menu brings a variety of the best of regional cuisine from all over Italy. The focus here is in the attention to detail in both the service and the food to provide you with top quality Italian dining. It really is a tiny piece of Italy, in the heart of Melbourne’s busy Chapel Street. You’re welcomed with fresh bread and olive oil which actually tastes like olives.
We started with the Carpaccio di Manzo and the Antipasto board. Carpaccio di Manzo is probably a stable antipasti if you visit Italy and this dish really showed it off at its best. The eye fillet was thinly cut, nicely flavoured with fresh Italian herbs and was like eating air (in a good way) – melt in your mouth doesn’t come close to describing how soft it was. They didn’t break much from tradition with this classic – and why would you, served with raddachio, 24 month aged Parmigiano Reggiano and a warm parmesan cream, it shows off Italian flavours at their finest.
Antipasto boards are one of my favourite entrees as I get to try lots of little things without feeling like I’ve eaten too much once the main arrives. Homemade Grissini are always a big win for me, and help to emphasise that attention to detail I mentioned earlier. These had a great crisp and I loved them nearly as much as the Gnocco Fritto (fried, light puffy bread diamonds). There was a huge range of top quality cured meats on the board – each one was cut slightly differently, and there was such a variety of textures and flavours making this an exciting start to our meal. There’s some rocket and grilled veggies to balance it out too.
For mains we tried the whole barramundi – a special for the day, and the Passatelli ai Funghi Porcini e Pecorino (mushrooms, truffle oil, pasta and cheese for those of you not fluent in Italian). Accompanying these with Caprese, fried potatoes and salad. Now, I’m just going to start out here with the caveat that we ordered far too much food! The soft white barramundi, served whole, but without the backbone, looked like a dish you’d be happy to enjoy in any Mediterranean port. The beauty was in its simplicity – just showing off the excellent cooking.
The passatelli is a stunning dish, rich for all the right reasons with a beautiful creamy sauce and homemade passatelli (and a meat free dish too). It’s one of those deceptively filling dishes as the passatelli is heavier and thicker than a traditional pasta due to the cheese and you don’t need a lot of this to fill you up – although you’ll definitely want to keep eating it.
Not only will you be impressed by the food, but the knowledgeable, welcoming staff will really enhance your experience. Not only are they excellent waiters – expertly manoeuvring the tight spaces with arms full of plates and topping up someone’s wine with their free hand, the fact that they are serving you food they genuinely grew up eating just means they have so much more to offer. From recommending the calabrese as an accompaniment to our meal – the fresh tomato really cut through my rich dish – to showing us how the cheek of the barramundi is the best part, you’ll leave with a little piece of their lives and a very full stomach.
Unfortunately, our dessert stomachs failed us, and we were defeated by our copious feast, however, we did sample some of the home made orangecello which was a super sweet way to finish off our Italian dining experience. A perfect end to an excellent all round experience.
Address: 581 Chapel Street, South Yarra
Mon 12pm to late
Tue 12pm to late
Wed 12pm to late
Thu 12pm to late
Fri 12pm to late
Sat 12pm to late
Sun 12pm to late
Parking: Chapel Street – yeah nah! There is paid parking around, you might find a street park if you’re lucky, just a bit hit and miss.
Getting here on PT: It’s about 5 minutes walk from South Yarra train station, or nice and close to both the 78 and 58 trams.
Disclaimer: We dined as guests of Caffe e Cucina, South Yarra. Reviews are honest and based on our own personal experiences. We cannot guarantee things at a restaurant won’t change including, but not limited to, menu items and opening hours, so please confirm any details with the venue before visiting.