Lunch: Monday to Friday from 12 noon
Dinner: Monday to Saturday from 5.30pm
Everything you want from a large sophisticated city Melbourne restaurant is right here: atmosphere, admirable service, a menu long enough to allow for real choice, an expansive drinks list, flattering lighting, carpets and tablecloths to ensure that sound levels are low enough for a proper conversation. There’s even environmental awareness, and sometimes fruit and vegetables from the Bortolotto family farm. And did we mention the bar that’s open for breakfast onwards? This is Italian, but leans towards innovative modern.
Pro Tip: Look for desserts featuring quinces and other seasonal fruit from the Bortolotto farm.
A delicious decade: “It’s a great achievement, and we’re as strong as ever,” Maria Bortolotto says on the eve of Cecconi’s 10 years at Flinders Lane. There’s no mistaking that’s an auspicious milestone, lasting a decade in an industry that sees more casualties than Game of Thrones episode. The secret to the restaurant’s longevity? “Best produce, cooked with the season,” says Maria, who cites consistency in delivery the biggest challenge of running the subterranean restaurant. “It’s tough to keep yourself up there. Our staff work so hard.” With Maurice Esposito now in the kitchen, the restaurant that started out at Crown has a new-found energy.
“He’s very forward in his thinking and cooking,” Maria says. As for the next 10 years? “I’m taking a sabbatical. Three months off in Europe from January; if I like it I might stay all year,” she says. Well, that’s a break well earned indeed. Maria and Anna Bortolotto with chef Maurice Esposito.
If Isabella Rossellini owned a restaurant, it would look a lot like Cecconi’s: aesthetically well-mannered without having to shout about it. A reliable city stager that sings from the posh-Italian songbook, Cecconi’s is the kind of place that makes you feel good – and we’re not just talking about the wine list (a sexy, sinuous Italian thing), the service (ditto) or the comfortable spacing between the linen-clad tables. Run by the legendary Bortolotto family using produce from their Victorian farm, it nails the business-crowd brief with a confident menu of value-added Italian-ness: pancetta wrapped quail with vincotto, excellent calamari fritti that arrives with salsa verde and ai’oli or slow-cooked Wagyu brisket with pureed white beans and red wine jus.