After the year that was, there’s a lot of pressure on 2021. But while some 2020 vibes have managed to seep through, at least Melbourne’s world of hospitality has some bright spots on the horizon. In the list below there’s a multi-space mega-venue, a new HQ for a beloved Melbourne gelateria, a pizzeria in a Roman piazza (pretty much), and the next move from a chef behind a busy and sleek Southeast Asian restaurant.

Society
Perhaps the most anticipated opening of 2021 is this grand yet intimate venue from Chris Lucas (Chin Chin, Baby Pizza, Kong, Hawker Hall and Kisumé) and Sydney chef and front-of-house duo Martin Benn and Vicki Wild (Sepia, now closed). It was originally due to open in March, but is now slated for May. And while details are scarce, what we know about it so far suggests it’ll be well worth the wait.

The avant-garde restaurant and bar will be housed at 80 Collins, a multimillion-dollar development of a heritage-listed CBD building (with a 180-degree view over Collins and Exhibition streets). There’ll be three spaces, each with their own menu: a lavish, Martini-perfect lounge bar, a terrace for al fresco dining, and a main restaurant with lofty ceilings.

And despite Sepia spending time at number 84 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Society “won’t be a temple of gastronomy”, Benn told Broadsheet in 2019 when news of the venture first broke. “We want excitement, we want it to be buzzing.”

Pizzeria Di Stasio
Pizzeria Di Stasio’s mission is to transport you to a piazza in Rome – and it may be the closest we’ll get for a while. Restaurateur Rinaldo “Ronnie” Di Stasio is behind Di Stasio Citta and Cafe Di Stasio, and this new venue in Carlton plans to give you that romantic European-summer feeling of being red-cheeked on a balmy night just after aperitivo hour.

It will seat around 100 people across the indoor space and courtyard. And a pizza oven is coming from Verona, while a 17th-century stone fountain is being imported from just outside Rome, for the courtyard. Kamilaroi/Gummaroi/Gamilaraay artist Reko Rennie – who has collaborated with Di Stasio before – will also create a colourful outdoor facade for the space.

The menu will have some rotating dishes – perhaps trays of thick, square-cut pizza to share – and Di Stasio favourites such as baccalà fritto, a take on fish’n’chips using cod.

Aru
Khanh Nguyen of Sunda is leading the charge at Aru, slated to open in the first half of this year. Aru – which will be a block from Bourke Street Mall and Swanston Street – was announced almost two years after Nguyen opened Sunda, the sleek Southeast Asian restaurant in Punch Lane that’s well-known for its cult-hit off-menu Vegemite curry.

This new spot will be more about communal dining than Sunda is. “My whole vision is people can come in, they can order a lot and try a lot and have a table full of food … You know, mixing and matching and sharing ... It’s more of a home-style way of eating compared to Sunda,” Nguyen told Broadsheet in February last year. There’ll be woodfire smoking, grilling and roasting seafood and meat, as well as lots of preserving and fermenting.

Pidapipo Laboratorio
This will be the beloved gelateria’s fourth location – at the northern end of Brunswick Street in Fitzroy – and its snazzy flagship.

It’ll be bigger than the other three (in Carlton, Windsor and the CBD) to allow kitchen space for more experimenting and recipe testing.

The corner site will have an open-plan gelato and cake production kitchen. On the other side, opening onto Cecil Street, there’ll be a gelateria, cioccolateria (chocolate shop) and pizzeria. A rooftop garden will grow lemon myrtle, strawberries, figs and other gelato-ready produce, and Nic Dowse of Honey Fingers will keep several beehives.

This gelateria, due to open in March, will scoop just 12 flavours at a time (the other stores do 20), focusing on the new and exclusive. Flavours will be developed and premiered here before they’re rolled out to the other locations.

Nomad Melbourne
Sydney’s Nomad recreates the feel of a regional cellar door, but right in the heart of Surry Hills, an inner-city drinking and dining destination. Its owners, husband and wife Al and Rebecca Yazbek, and executive chef Jacqui Challinor, have long wanted to be among good company in another world-class dining hotspot: Flinders Lane. But instead of creating a carbon copy of the Sydney location, “We want to offer something different while still serving the food that we love”, Challinor told Broadsheet.

The plan is for a smart 100-seat bar and restaurant with the same menu highlights the Sydney venue is loved for – Mediterranean flavours and dishes kissed by a woodfire oven – but with produce primarily from Victoria.

Arbory’s new venue
Here’s another multi-space, multipurpose venue – but for the CBD. This yet-to-be-named spot will be mega in size and located in a heritage-listed building (once a cigarette manufacturer) on Lonsdale Street, right across from Emporium. It’s by the Arbory Bar & Eatery and Arbory Afloat team, and it’s been in the works for five years – a lifetime in hospo years. This ambitious spot will attempt to cater to a range of punters across five storeys: expect a rooftop bar for late-night revellers; intimate, light-filled spaces for diners; and an option for the morning coffee crowd. Terry Clark, who used to be head chef at The Source at Mona in Hobart, will lead the kitchen team.

Additional reporting by Sofia Levin, Jo Robin, Nick Connellan and Tomas Telegramma.