41 Little Collins Street, Melbourne (map)
Open lunch and dinner, 7 days
Look for the little neon wolf!
Lupino, the new bistro and bar from Becco alums Richard Lodge and chef Marco Lori, opened on Wednesday. It's located at the top end of Little Collins Street in the site formerly occupied by the Champagne Lounge, next door to Bar Lourinhã. Lupino means 'little wolf' in Italian, so it's only fitting that a neon wolf cub's head marks the venue entrance.
The interior is trattoria-casual: lots of orange tiles, wicker-backed chairs, an open kitchen and nary a starched tablecloth in sight. The menu is pretty short and snappy, including bar snacks and antipasti, half a dozen pasta dishes and a few more substantial secondi. They also have a wonderfully minimalist pizza menu (Margarita or Prosciutto or Garlic & Rosemary or Anchovy), which warmed my "pizza: less is more" heart.
When I dropped in for lunch on Thursday with my Sydney friend J, he ordered the veal tortelloni with fresh tomato, bocconcini, basil and brodo ($22). I had an excellent risotto of rabbit, porcini, pancetta and green olives ($24). A glass each of Devil Bend Creek Pinot Noir sealed the deal.
J loves apple and pastry, so ordering the apple strudel ($14) was a given. He loved it. My eye was caught by the promise of bomboloni with imported Italian Nutella ($14, and yes, the difference in taste for the imported stuff is noticeable). HOLY HELL they were epic, both in terms of size and the generous slatherings of Nutella. They tasted damn authentic though, like the ones I used to buy when I lived over in Italy. The scoop of slightly sharp yoghurt ice cream was a nice touch. But play it smart and share this dessert with another person.
Or if you're feeling brave (and don't need to go back to the office afterwards), order the Scroppino - lemon gelato and Prosecco with a shot of vodka.
The windows looking out over Ridgway Place, offering glimpses of the Melbourne Club's tropical Secret garden.
This corner of the CBD just gets better and better: as well as Lourinhã you've got Danny and Siany at Liaison (happily, now a regular coffee haunt of mine since I started my new job), Mamasita, and - coming soon - San Telmo. San Telmo is the Argentinian restaurant that Jason McConnell (from The Aviary, and cousin of Andrew and Matt) is going to open in Meyers Place, once the fancy-pants custom-made grill manages to make its way over here on a boat from South America. Quietly hoping San Telmo will be Melbourne's Porteño!