You might argue Brisbane doesn’t need a new Italian restaurant. If this city has always done one thing well it’s an Italian diner, from honest plates of pasta served on gingham tablecloths to Il Centro and its iconic sand crab lasagne.
In the 2000s things only got better with restaurants such as 1889 Enoteca, Becconfino, Bar Alto and Tartufo appearing. In more recent years it’s been Coppa Spuntino, Julius, Otto, Pizzeria Violetta and Bucci, among many others.
But still people can’t seem to get enough. And if there’s a restaurateur who knows what people want, it’s Michael Tassis. Tassis owns the enormously popular, Greek-inflected George’s Paragon, which each night heaves with punters going large on its unfussy take on fresh seafood.
Now Tassis is shifting a few hundred metres down the Brisbane River – and his cuisine a few hundred miles west in the Mediterranean – to open Massimo, an Italian restaurant and bar. It will kick off its first service this Thursday on the Eagle Street Riverwalk opposite the Citycat ferry stop.
Tassis has breathed new life into the expansive site, which was previously occupied by an old Groove Train. Crisp white walls, neutral decor and gold fixtures brighten a once dark space and bring a modern feel to the venue. Bi-fold glass doors along a 35-metre frontage connect diners with the river and offer some spectacular views of the Story Bridge.
The restaurant, with its plush private booths and timber tables, seats 140 people, and the bar area near the entrance has stools and velvet lounges for 30. Tassis says he and the team wanted to create a sophisticated space with a price-point that was perfect for everyday dining. “It’s a place where people can come for special occasions, but also business meetings and catch-ups once or twice a week,” he says.
In the kitchen is Abruzzo native Davide de Scisciolo, backed by a team that is three-quarters Italian. De Scisciolo says the restaurant has taken traditional recipes and added a modern twist. Starters and share plates feature four types of focaccia as well as a selection of cured meats, carpaccio seafood and oysters. Mains include everything from pasta dishes such as sand crab and prawn tagliolini to whole snapper, veal cotoletta and a one-kilogram Italian T-bone steak intended for two people.
The full menu is available for both lunch and dinner, with many of the entrees and mains discounted during day trade. There’s also an all-day dining menu available in the bar featuring about 15 entree and share-style dishes.
Almost half of the 140 wines on offer at Massimo are from Italy, with the remainder mostly from Australian and New Zealand producers. Peroni is on tap along with a pale ale and a lager made by Melbourne Brewing especially for the venue.
Boardwalk level at The Riverside Centre, 123 Eagle Street, Brisbane
(07) 3221 1663
Sun to Thu 11am–9.30pm Fri & Sat 11am–10pm