A year on from opening Alta Trattoria, named one of Broadsheet’s best new restaurants in Melbourne for 2023, head chef and co-owner McKay Wilday says the team “needed another challenge”.

In December last year the chef, along with co-founders sommelier James Tait (ex-King & Godfree), manager Luke Drum (ex-Carlton Wine Room) and Carlo Grossi (Ombra Salumi, Grossi Florentino), took over the space that formerly housed Rum Diary and, before that, Gypsy Bar. They opened Enoteca Zingara, just down the road from Alta, a little over two weeks ago.

Enoteca can be translated from Italian to mean “wine library” but, as romantic as that term is, in Italy it’s used to describe an elevated wine shop and bar with great snacks. (Zingara means “gypsy” in Italian and is a nod to the venue’s past life.)

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McKay Wilday at Enoteca Zingara. Photography: Ashley Ludkin

At Enoteca Zingara, you can come in for a glass or two or choose a bottle to have there or take home. The wines are mostly Italian, but with Tait’s pick of French, Spanish, Austrian and Australian drops.

Tait says he wanted their next venture to be traditional, simple, humble. “Alta is how I like to dine, Enoteca is how I like to drink and snack, and then accidentally stay for dinner.”

As at Alta, Wilday (who worked in the Grossi stable before he spent a year as chef de partie at three-Michelin-starred restaurant Geranium in Copenhagen) oversees the menu.

Where Alta heroes Piedmontese food, Zingara’s menu includes dishes from across Italy. “It was harder to write the menu because it’s so diverse and I had so many options, but at the same time I have more freedom,” Wilday tells Broadsheet. Everything is prepared in Alta’s kitchen but is finished and plated in front of you at the bar.

Sardenaira. Photography: Ashley Ludkin

One part of the menu is a celebration of the chef’s love of Italian breads. It features sardenaira, a cheese-less pizza-like bread from Liguria topped here with tomato, olives, capers and anchovies. There’s also a crostini selection where the chef’s ciabatta is toasted and topped with the likes of whipped salted cod, braised chicken livers or raw spiced veal sausage with preserved broccoli tops.

Aperitivo hour runs from 4pm to 5pm and includes $6 Peronis and $6 Camparis served alongside complimentary snacks that might include hot salami or potato and rosemary focaccia.

There are bigger bites too, including braised rabbit with tonnato (a creamy Italian condiment typically made with tuna, anchovies, lemon juice, olive oil and mayonnaise) and pork-rib meatballs made using a recipe from Wilday’s partner’s nonna.

For something sweet, there’s orange and bay leaf sorbet and burnt ricotta pie with Amarena cherries.

Enoteca Zingara. Photography: Ashley Ludkin

After a renovation that took just over five months, Rum Diary’s dark and moody interiors have been replaced with a bright, light-filled space.

“Once we had dug away all the plasterboard there were all these beautiful brick walls. The pressed tin roof and marble bar were all there, just in disrepair,” says Tait.

These features can now be seen and appreciated, alongside newly added industrial holophane lights that hang above the long marble-top bar; wine shelves and fridges; and two Lewis Miller paintings, one of an oyster and the other of a plate of sardines.

Most of the enoteca’s 34 seats are at the bar, but you can take your place at tables to the side and back of the dining room, at the window overlooking Brunswick Street, or on the footpath.

Italo disco hits are on the playlist and there’s a gleaming cabinet showcasing Mr Cannubi salumi and a selection of cheese.

Enoteca Zingara
334 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9191 4485

Mon, Wed to Fri 4pm–late
Sat & Sun midday–late