Image: Georgia Haynes
The strip between the City and Docklands hosts often tired cuisine – with this area around the Arts Precinct often struggling to remain relevant in a post-90s Melbourne.
The recent Hamer Hall facelift, however, has injected some life into Southbank, and being the central area for pre-and-post-performance dining, Southgate has been required to up its game. Enter Artusi, which opened this week, promising all things Italian tapas and fine European wine.
Owners of the much-loved Tutto Benne, Luis Pampliega and Tamara Volkoff, are heading up the new venture, so it’s hardly surprising Artusi was packed with Melbourne’s Italian glitterati along with other colourful characters – Big Brother’s Tully Smith and Matt Mitchell of Con the Fruiterer fame among them. In light of recent dwindling numbers, it was heartening to head to a restaurant opening at Southgate that was absolutely full to the brim.
Sure, there were your standard Italian clichés – an old crooner singing Volare followed by a Soprano trilling O Mio Babbino Caro and Libiamo ne’lieti calici – the only two Italian operatic pieces that anyone actually knows. The schmaltz is to be expected of this area of Melbourne, and the night’s entertainment picked up during a fantastic demonstration by Head Chef (and executive chef of Tutto Benne) Leandro Panza demonstrating how to whip up some tortellini magic.
I don’t think the event managers had anticipated the turnout, and battling it out with the feisty Italian mammas to snaffle a gorgonzola canapé or a pumpkin cappeloni was a little dramatic. This was somewhat redeemed by the gift bags we were handed as we left which were filled with risotto, Tutto Benne olive oil and praline goodness.
They may have been hammered by hoards at the opening, but that didn’t deter from the overwhelmingly warm and happy atmosphere at Artusi – and if his performance on opening night was anything to go by, Leandro Panza knows his stuff and Artusi is definitely one to watch in the coming months.