When co-founder Michael Costanzo walks into DOC Espresso on Lygon Street he’s interrupted every 30 seconds or so by a loud but friendly “ciao” from a regular diner, waiter, or friend popping in for a takeaway piccolo. “Are you well? How’s the family?” he responds to each one.
Add to that list a new spot opposite the Eureka Tower in Southbank, which Costanzo says is the start of a new chapter for the group. (He founded the group with Tony Nicolini and Robert De Santis – Nicolini went out on his own last year to open Italian Artisans in the old DOC Albert Park space.) Costanzo’s got plans for a CBD restaurant and Sydney and Tokyo spots, too.
At DOC Southbank, the core DNA remains – crispy and springy pizza bases, “ciaos” – but there’s a polished new look. Costanzo worked with architecture firm Studio Ole – also behind the design of Windsor’s Tipico (think sharp lines and abstract artworks) – to create a modern-industrial space. Concrete, glass, terrazzo, marble and travertine (a type of limestone) are juxtaposed with homey timber chairs and tables, and antique light shades. Circular motifs, such as segmented mirrors, are a nod to what comes out of the oven.
In the semi-open kitchen chefs slice prosciutto from a packed salumi fridge (visible from the street) and whip up fried egg and pancetta panino and homemade piadinas – thin, simple flatbreads typical of northern Italy’s Romagna region – to stuff with San Daniele prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and fresh rocket. Later in the day tried and true Carlton menu items appear, such as the signature Pizza DOC: plump tomatoes, Campania buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil. Another pizza comes topped with juicy tiger prawns, mozzarella, endive and just enough fresh chilli to tickle your tongue. Gluten-free and vegan pizzas are available too.
The wine list has a 30/70 per cent split between local and Italian wines (like DOC’s house prosecco made by three-generation-old winery Cester Camillo in Treviso, Italy). And during aperitivo hour (from 4pm to 6pm seven days a week) you can help yourself to pre-dinner bites such as olives and prosciutto when you buy a drink – a classically Italian tradition.
“I want to create that little Italian bar you go to, have drinks, eat, be happy,” Costanzo says. “You walk in stressed, get a coffee and ‘ciao bella’, and leave with a smile on your face.”
T7, 6 Riverside Quay, Southbank
(03) 9686 2780
Mon to Fri 7am–late
Sat & Sun 8am–late
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on April 1, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.