80 Bourke St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9662 1811
Today was my last weekday “day off” before school starts next week (as some of you know, I only work four days a week now). I decided to celebrate this day by getting out of bed at the early hour of 11:30am before heading into the city for lunch with Adam. I had been craving some decent Italian all week and after the horror that was Trunk, I was still not happy. Hence, why we took a stroll up Bourke Street Hill for some simple homely Italian at Grossi Florentino’s Cellar Bar. We had been there just over a year ago and thought it was pretty good, but we went straight for the mains rather than what everyone orders – the pastas. After hearing more and more endless stories about the Cellar Bar‘s pastas, we decided to revisit the place for some delicious carbs.
The dark but homely restaurant was exactly how I remembered it; it still retained its old world charm and it was still busy even though it was 2pm when we stepped into the bar. Luckily for us, there was one single table in the middle of the narrow dining room which we gladly accepted.
Obligatory bread and olive oil – good fruity Mt Zero olive oil, one of my favourite brands.
We shared a starter of polpette de baccala (salted cod croquettes, $16 for five). I know I’m being cliched when I say this, but I swear they were really golden fried to perfection. Very crispy and golden on the outside with not a residue of oil and extremely smooth and creamy on the inside. The filling was salty, as you would expect, but not overly salty as I would presume the salted cod fillets would have been soaked in water for a while before being blendered with the cream and flour. Accompanied by some rocket leaves and aioli, they were the perfect starters and according to Adam, “the best thing we’ve had in a long time.”
Adam’s pasta, a serving of pappardelle with duck liver and mushroom ragu ($18). This was a beautifully executed pasta. A generous serving of fat, homemade ribbons shared the bowl with a rich and creamy sauce. Add thick chunks of duck liver and chopped field mushrooms and you have yourself a winner. I would have liked the duck livers to be cooked a bit longer as they were a little hard but that’s the only gripe I have with this dish.
My pasta, the humble lasagne ($16). It might come as a surprise to many people but the simple lasagne is probably one of my favourite things to eat, especially in Winter. Now, baking a lasagne isn’t rocket science. I believe that anyone can make a decent one – it’s generally pretty easy, it’s just that it takes time to make one. Guy Grossi’s lasagne, however, was one that I would consider to be a pretty, pretty, pretty good lasagne. As my fork touched my tongue, I could taste pork as well as veal and chicken mince in the warm tomato sugo as well as a hint of basil and nutmeg. It was hearty and rich but also very delicate at the same time.
The punters have got it right when they say that The Cellar Bar makes good pasta. Indeed, don’t come here expecting something that will blow your mind away. The Cellar Bar specialises in simple, rustic Italian with the emphasis on fresh ingredients and cooking Italian food the way it should be. Even though The Cellar Bar might be the bottom rung of the Grossi Florentino restaurant ladder (there are two “higher-end” restaurants), ironically it is the one I like the most. For only $62 (including a glass of Shiraz for me and freshly-squeezed orange juice for Adam), I would be just as happy as I would walking out of THE Grossi Florentino upstairs after a $300 meal.