It’s a big birthday month in our family with the three of us all in quick succession. MTV’s birthday is in serious danger of being completely eclipsed by our daughters but this year we still celebrated by booking in a babysitter and heading out to dinner at Chianti Bistro in Clifton Hill. The restaurant could be the perfect set for a 1970’s movie. Chianti ticks every Italian restaurant cliche with the mini wine barrels serving as signs, exposed brick walls, varnished pines and dimpled copper decorations. Most new owners wouldn’t be able to resist themselves and would immediately whitewash the walls and give the place an industrial chic style fit out. But the new owners of Chianti are the team behind one of my favourite cafes, Mixed Business, so they we able to spot that the decor of Chianti is so uncool that it might just be cool to leave it exactly as it is.
The understated approach is evident in the menu as well which is only one page. But it’s one page of classics with plenty to tempt. There are good quality ingredients served simply in true Italian style. It should go without saying that there was good quality bread and a tiny bowl of warmed olives. To start, a special of decadent but delicious Hervey Bay scallops topped with truffle butter. Heaven on a scallop shell. There were also croquettas ($4 each) filled with oozing Fontina cheese flecked with porcini.
A simple fillet of Mangrove Jack fish ($32) was teamed with a light tomato broth and spankingly fresh mussels. MTV was in his element with a hunk of slow cooked Wagyu beef ($34) rich and sticky alongside parsnip cream and a kick of horseradish. A must order is the side of Brussel sprouts ($12) which have been roasted until they are crispy and topped with anchovies and pancetta crumbs.
Of the desserts the pick is the saffron roasted pear topped with crumbed polenta ($14) it reminded me of a deconstructed pear crumble. Only serious chocoholics should attempt the chocolate parfait served with pistachio cream ($14). It defeated me due to the sheer density of the chocolate. The desserts are emblematic of the special occasion feel to a meal at Chianti which takes it above your typical neighbourhood bistro. But as with all good Italian restaurants, the food is at its best when it knocks you over with its simplicity. If this is retro dining then I’m all for it.
Details: Chianti Bistro, 376 Queens Parade, North Fitzroy (Ph 9481 4628) Open 6pm-11pm Tues – Sunday.