A restaurant of his own was never part of Italian chef Paolo Arlotta’s plans. After stints at Vue de Monde, Tipo 00 and Kinfolk, he hosted regular Herbivorous Nights pop-ups at Fitzroy’s Young Bloods Diner.
When the eatery closed at the height of Melbourne's 2020 Covid lockdowns, he took a chance and decided to make the vegetarian degustation (or something like it) permanent. Riso is the result. It started off as a cafe, with pop-up nights on weekends. But when sommelier Tim O’Donnell (ex-L’Hôtel Gitan, Movida and Private Dining Room pop-ups) joined the team, it took things to the next level.
Now, Riso is an all-day diner and wine bar, featuring an Italian-inspired à la carte menu that changes daily (check the chalkboard for the day’s dishes) and a 40-strong wine list.
From the bar menu you can get arancini and focaccia. Larger dishes such as braised pumpkin with browned butter; house-made pappardelle with gorgonzola cream; risotto with chicory puree and pecorino romano; and cavatelli with fermented potato cream have all featured on the menu in the past.
The wine list carries a lot of texture, thanks to a decent representation of skin-contact drops from local winemakers. There’s pét-nat kombucha from Monceau, as well as house-batched Negronis and the Melburnian – a take on the Manhattan using spirits by local producers.
Sustainability is a key focus at Riso. Many of the materials used in the refurb were recycled or reclaimed, and ingredients are sourced locally and seasonally where possible. When products need to be imported – such as rice from Arlotta’s hometown – the restaurant offsets its carbon emissions by planting trees via Rainforest Rescue’s Daintree restoration project.