Constructive criticism and salumi at Ombra

I’m useless at complaining in restaurants.  I find it much less confrontational to pretend everything was fine and then go home and and write about any shortcomings on here.  I know restaurant owners and chefs always say they would prefer to hear any negative feedback while you are actually at the restaurant but I can’t bear to make a scene and spoil my meal.  


I’m taking a new approach now though after a fabulous response to some constructive criticism at Carlos Grossi’s (son of Guy Grossi) salumi bar Ombra which has opened next door to Grossi Florentino.  I went there for lunch with my friend Joyce and after ordering a selection of things to share from the menu our waiter said he would bring the dishes out in stages rather than all at once.  That was fine by us but we didn’t realise quite how long the timing between each plate would be.  


Ombra prides itself on its salumi and makes lots of it in house so it was good that the selection of melt in the mouth pancetta, gamey venison salami and lonza were spot on ($18).  I also loved the arancini ($4 each) with their crisp, fried exterior and soft filling of rice studded with pumpkin and goats cheese.   

Salumi explained at Ombra
Salumi explained at Ombra

The crisp 12 hour lamb ribs ($16) were tender and had us both gnawing the meat off the bone but the wait was so long that we managed to work up an appetite between plates.  Nduja (a spicy sausage paste) and rice polenta ($16) looked spectacular but the texture of both components of the dish was too similar and again service was at a glacial pace.    

Ndjua and rice polenta at Ombra
Ndjua and rice polenta at Ombra

 After an apology for the wait we were finally served our ordered pizza topped with eggplant and anchovies.  The pizza base was impressively thin and pliant but the pizza suffered from too much oil.  

Pizza at Ombra
Pizza at Ombra

By now our lunch had taken almost two hours and Carlo (who was serving us) asked us if everything had been ok.  Often a two hour lunch can be great but not when you are not drinking wine and seeing other tables arrive after you and leave while you are still waiting for courses.  So Joyce bravely ventured that the food had been great but the service had been too slow.  I felt horrible but he handled this piece of constructive criticism perfectly.  He apologised and comped the cake and coffee we had ordered.  

Raspberry cheesecake at Ombra
Raspberry cheesecake at Ombra – the desserts were like something your Nonna would make (if you had one)

It wasn’t something we expected at all but showed me how actually making a complaint when there is a problem doesn’t have to ruin your meal.  If it’s handled well it can leave you feeling even more positively towards a place.  I may just be a changed woman.  

Details: Ombra, 76 Bourke St Melbourne 3000 (Ph 03 9639 1927) 
Damage: Reasonable.  Our bill came to $76 for two without wine.  
Ombra Salumi Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. I’m like that too – I usually say that things are ‘fine’ when being asked how things were, but then I’ll go full-on bitch mode when I write my review haha.

    I had no idea that Carlo Grossi was behind Ombra. I’m definitely keen to give this place a go for nibbles, hopefully the service isn’t as slow when I go!

  2. I’m totally the same about complaining! I’m usually too shy (read: worried that I’ll like lose my temper at the poor staff member rather than keeping my cool, haha, and then be too embarrassed to ever return).

    Well handled ladies! *golf clap*

  3. So glad that waiter took the criticism well! The arancini sounds amazing!!!

  4. I think we all struggle to provide honest feedback at the table. Great to see that your feedback was handled so well here!

  5. 2 HOURS? oh my lordy lord.
    I also have a trouble fessing up about bad things too!

  6. Libby – I think it would be really great for nibbles or pre/post dinner drinks

    Sarah – Well it was actually Joyce not me, but I have vowed to be better next time.

    Andi – Yes it was a relief and the arancini was excellent.

    Helen – Good to hear I’m not the only one.

    Shellie – Yes it was a bit much for a casual week day lunch – but handled really well in the end.

  7. Thanks for all the reviews Cara. We are new to Melbourne & really appreciate the honest way you handle both the good & the bad in restaurants/cafes. I have tried a couple after reading your reviews & this is now on my list. Thanks again.

    1. Pamela – Thanks for your comment and I hope you are enjoying Melbourne – it’s a great city for food.

  8. Great review Cara! I am sure Carlo would appreciate your constructive criticism and the positive way you have approached writing about your experience. I am a bit of a regular at Ombra and have loved it every time I have been. I hope you get the chance to get back there (and maybe enjoy a few vinos – the house nebbiolo is excellent)!

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