Since opening last year, Stan’s has become a sandwich staple for the south-east.

But the next step for one of its co-owners, Alex Gavioli, was to strike out on his own with a new night-time venue called Don’s. The tiny wine bar is something fresh for the strip it sits on – on Commercial Road in Prahran – but it feels right at home. Here are four reasons we’re loving it.

It’s as cosy and communal as a dinner party
“It’s so cliche to say, but it’s like you’re in my house,” says Gavioli. “Like a big dinner party.”

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Shielded by wooden venetian blinds with just a tiny lightbox marking the entrance, Don’s is a hidden gem despite its prominent Prahran location, just across from the market.

When Gavioli first got the keys, he immediately tore down a main dividing wall to make room for a 12-metre-long communal table and kitchen bench. It spans the centre of the room and allows for the sort of shared, intimate dining experiences he’s all about.

But the food’s a cut above
At Stan’s, the sandwiches can be over-the-top (in the best way) but Don’s proves Gavioli can also show restraint. The menu is fluid but revolves around small, simple plates like sardine, cucumber and bearnaise on toast, or flatbread slathered with confit garlic.

There are a few nods to Stan’s, though, including a secret-recipe fried-chicken sandwich that’s loaded with slaw, house-made buttermilk dressing and spicy jalapeno jam.

In the coming weeks, Gavioli plans to introduce an expanded lunch offering and a regular pasta line-up (think mafalde bolognaise, handmade in the open kitchen).

The wine list is impressive but accessible
Instead of an intimidating pages-long wine list, Gavioli has a relatively minimal, relatively natural selection: pét-nats from Oz, frizzante from Italy and chilled reds from Austria. And he’s focusing on the stories behind the pours – without the pretence.

“Winemaking is so personal,” he says. “Instead of telling someone what this wine should taste like, I want to tell the story of why the winemakers do what they do.”

And at its core, it’s a love letter to Melbourne
Gavioli – originally from Brisbane – reckons an international venue may be next on the cards for him. But Don’s is a celebration of the community he’s built here.

“It’s like my love letter to Melbourne and the people I’ve met throughout the years, who’ve come together to create this space with me.”

Building on that sentiment, his next step will be launching a kitchen takeover series for young or underrepresented chefs, who can then showcase their food for a night.

Don’s
202 Commercial Road, Prahran

Hours:
Wed & Thu 5pm–9pm
Fri 4pm–11pm
Sat 1pm–11pm
Sun 12pm–6pm

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