irector of Chapel Street stalwart and Italian favourite Caffe e Cucina for over five years, Gino Forlano teams up with Alesandra De Luca to open the doors to their new venture around the corner, Thirty Eight Chairs. Despite sisterly love between e Cucina and this new offering, Forlano and De Luca arrive with their own stamp of simplicity.
A frontage of shiny white tiles and concrete gives way to a smart yet casual all-day eatery in this relaxed South Yarra locale, previously Bond Street Cafe. Squeeze through the slick, dark space, amid the cloud of Italian dialects to make one of the 38 seats your own. With the kitchen exposed and the addition of rusted 1940s hanging caged lamps, the industrial tenor breathes newfound warmth into Bond Street.
Chef Giuseppe Di Mauro (Cafe e Cucina and Enoteca Sileno) pares it back with a refined menu that’s focus is solely on quality of produce. Poached straight from the Campania region, he serves up only a few options, but each dish holds its own.
Offering a typically light Italian breakfast, you can choose from prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella piadini, Italian Nutella on toast, or the deadly bomboloni filled with fluffy vanilla custard.
‘Primi’ options include peppered tuna carpaccio, grilled baby calamari and the house smoked trout with crunchy caponata. Or take on the chef’s selection of seasonal starters, served on a marble shard.
From pappardele with slow cooked duck ragu to a unique take on the traditional marinara, pasta is at the forefront. The ‘penne rigate’ is a steady seller, boasting a rich tomato sauce with torn basil, generous dollops of ricotta and vine-ripened cherry tomatoes thrown in at the end. Finish off with ‘coppa al cioccolato’ (chocolate cup, cream, biscuit crumbles) or the ‘crema al’arancio’ (Thirty Eight Chairs’ spin on the classic brulee).
Taking a liberal reading of the name Thirty Eight Chairs, perch yourself on one of the stools at the antipasto vetrina e mozerella bar. Watch the Italian boys carve your bresaola, before muddling a Campari, arranciata and limonatta cocktail to wash it all down.
The simple life of Italy is hard to come by and as De Luca points out, “there are a lot of Italian restaurants around [in Melbourne], but I don’t think simplicity is easy to master.”
We like their pared-back style.
4a Bond Street, South Yarra
(03) 9827 5553
Mon & Tues 7.30am –4pm
Wed to Fri 7.30am–11pm