We’re calling it: there’s no better place for a spritz this summer than the courtyard at brand new Carlton restaurant, Di Stasio Pizzeria.
It makes three for prolific pair Rinaldo “Ronnie” Di Stasio and Mallory Wall, la famiglia behind Cafe Di Stasio in St Kilda and the inimitable Di Stasio Citta. And it’s the first time in their decades-long history that they’re serving pizza.
Inside, it’s split into three distinctly different spaces: the front Bar Sport; the Ladies’ Lounge, a nod to Di Stasio’s first hospitality job at the Olympic Hotel in Preston; and the Caravaggio Room, named after the leading Italian painter, who was active in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. As with Citta, the venue seamlessly blurs the line between restaurant and art gallery, courtesy of Di Ritter from Hassell Architects. Shaun Gladwell sculptures are a statement on liberty, while three large-scale artworks by Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay/Gummaroi artist Reko Rennie cascade colour into the rooms.
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Il cortile (the courtyard), meanwhile, could be an entirely different restaurant – or country. From the Faraday Street entrance, tables for two line the narrow laneway between the restaurant and the neighbouring Grown Alchemist store. Down a gravel path, the sound of water trickling into the 17th-century Italian stone fountain grows louder. Dozens of plants in ornate pots and urns come into view, and a dedicated bar, painted “za’taar green”, completes the picture.
“We’ve always wanted a cortile,” Wall tells Broadsheet. “Having a courtyard grow with us, as well as the static restaurant, it’s like a tangible green monument that everything is moving forward. It’s a new beginning.”
“We’re embracing that little element of Europe,” she continues. “We want people to be surprised and delighted – and already people are commenting that it’s like a secret garden with memories of childhood and holidays. It’s a semi-nostalgic, tangible escape.”
There are nine pizzas on the tick-box menu, from a classic margherita to another with lobster, lard, fior di latte and herbs. Extra basil is supplied on ice, as are olives when you order a Martini. Chef Federico Congiu makes the fior di latte using St David Dairy jersey milk from Gippsland, San Marzano tomatoes are grown at the owners’ Yarra Valley property and a custom flour blend is milled especially for the pizzeria in Tamworth.
Primi come small or large and include plates like fish carpaccio with whey dressing saved from the cheese-making process; secondi might be a Milan-style Berkshire pork cutlet. There are also a few pastas and snacks such as trippa fritta (salty, deep-fried tripe batons served with lemon). And if you only have room for one dessert, make it the fior di latte soft serve; it’s salted, drizzled with Mount Zero olive oil and has textural bursts underneath from olive-oil cake cooked both regularly and in crouton form.
Di Stasio Pizzeria is a grand homage to the area’s Italian heritage, from hospitality veterans. But with mostly Victorian ingredients and local art, this isn’t an Italian restaurant – it’s Italo-Australian, as Wall often refers back to – and it’s one all of Melbourne should be proud of.
Di Stasio Pizzeria
224 Faraday Street, Carlton
03 9070 1110
Wed to Thu 5.30pm–late
Fri to Sun 12pm–late