From the dark, herringbone timber floors to the soft, antique lights hanging from the ceiling, Orio Randi and Emma Clarke have built The Way To San Jose from the ground up. And as you’d expect from the man behind Arteveneta, who has fitted out and built furniture for some of Melbourne’s most iconic restaurants, it is beautiful.

Arteveneta has a list of clients that reads like a who’s who of the Melbourne epicurean scene. If you like to dine out, you’ve probably perched on more than one of their stools. Furniture clients include Izakaya Den, The Commons in Sydney, Vue De Monde, Market Lane, Pope Joan, DOC, Neapoli and many more. “After so many years of building for other people, it’s nice to do it for ourselves,” says co-owner and partner Emma Clarke. “Orio built everything you see.”

He welded the windows, added the stained glass, built the smooth, solid dark bar and the tabletops. Even the toilets are finished with the same attention to detail for which Randi is known.

San Jose has been open for just over a week and already it has the feel of a well-established eatery. Locals stream in and out and Clarke greeting most by name. “I live upstairs,” admits Clarke. “So we already knew a lot of community.” She also knew the area was crying out for a restaurant of this calibre. Located in a charming but somewhat lacklustre strip in McKinnon, San Jose, is exactly what the suburban community was waiting for.

Andrea Mantesi, one of the founding co-owners of Caffe e Cucina and most recently head chef at Fratelli Paradiso in Sydney, has come on board as head chef and he’s brought with him a strong team of Italian chefs. The menu has a strong northern Italian influence and where possible everything is made in-house. To start, a rotating selection of house made hors d'oeuvre such as house-pickled olives, house-made bread and savoury doughnuts (all complimentary) get your taste buds warmed up.

The main focus of the menu is pizza, which comes out of an old fashioned, light blue electric pizza oven with a thin, perfectly cooked base and simple high-quality toppings. There are also more substantial mains like fluffy house-made gnocchi with prawns and garlic or an impressive 200-gram slab of Wagyu.

The drinks list is considered and concise. Start with a Campari and Prosecco spritzer and work your way through to a double espresso.

McKinnon might not be around the corner, but we’re definitely going back to find some piece of mind in San Jose.

The Way To San Jose
135 McKinnon Road, McKinnon
(03) 9578 6550

Wed to Sun 5pm–11pm