At home in the Cellar Bar, Melbourne
To those who are familiar with the name, Guy Grossi is the real deal. Italian to the core he brings food to life in a manner that is homely, rustic but evolved into the styling that is suited to this day and age in Australia. He's a Masterchef promoted chef who has become a household name, and so on my holiday to Melbourne I did not even hesitate for a minute at the chance to visit his restaurant on Bourke Street in the city.
The set up is smart - high end restaurant Grossi Florentino with a more accessible and intimate bar next door that still offers an impressive selection of dishes at a reasonable price. We ended up here, at what is know as The Cellar Bar.
First off, it is tiny! But gorgeously authentic in the way the tables are crammed together haphazardly and the steaming plates of pasta fog up wine glasses nearby. I can tell I'm going to like it here.
The wait for a table is about 30 minutes when we arrive at 8.30pm, but the staff are friendly and we don't mind since we're waiting for our friend Betty to arrive who lives over here now. When we are seated, we find ourselves practically in the laps of others but that's not to be helped, this place truly is teeny.
Salt cod croquettes
For starters Carly and I share the Salt Cod Croquettes ($18). They're five little crunchy balls that are salty, fishy and creamy all at the same time. They taste pretty damn good! There's a nice fresh rocket salad in the centre which pairs well given its peppery nature. Liz gets some handout chips which are also delicious, thick and crunchy. It's a nice start to the meal in conjunction with the complimentary bread basket that arrives with beautiful virgin olive oil. Our second day here and that's free bread two others in a row - watch out Perth I'm getting used to this luxury!
Betty arrives soon after we finish our starters and after a quick menu perusal, we place our orders for mains. She's chosen the Ziti con Ricotta e Zucchini ($18). It's a lovely light pasta that is creamy from the ricotta and Parmesan included in the dish but fresh from the vividly green zucchini. It smells wonderful.
Liz opts for the Spaghetti Bolognese ($18) which is steaming when it arrives at our table. A gorgeous twisting our spaghetti ribbons covered in meat and sauce. It's a generous serving especially of mince which I think is a stark difference to most places where meat is skimped on.
Not a huge pasta fan, Carly chooses a calamari and salad dish which was beautiful in appearance but surprisingly small considering its the most expensive of our mains at $25. Nonetheless her plate is spotless so I'm guessing it tasted amazing.
For my main I choose the Pumpkin Tortellini with Fried Sage ($18). My, oh my, it is SO good! The pasta is al dente, retaining some yield to each bite. The roasted pumpkin filling is lost velvety in texture, the dressing a simple slick of olive oil. And those sage leaves - they add the perfect boost if flavour and texture to each bite. It's definitely the best of all the dishes ordered and extremely filling. What great cooking for such an affordable price! You definitely can't complain.
I have to say, the set up and concept of the Cellar Bar wowed me. And the food, well that was definitely an experience worth having. Great second dinner in the Australian capital for food.