Studio Amaro – Chapel Street’s newest day-to-night Italian destination – is first and foremost a restaurant and bar. But for Commune Group’s creative director, Simon Blacher, it’s important that the two-storey Italian all-rounder – the group’s biggest venue yet – is used however you choose.
Commune already boasts a large footprint in Windsor, including popular spots Firebird, Hanoi Hannah and Tokyo Tina, plus Moonhouse in Balaclava and New Quarter in Richmond. Having established itself in Melbourne’s mod-Asian dining scene, Italian was the next challenge. “We all love Italian food, Melbourne loves Italian food, we don’t have to teach people about it,” Blacher tells Broadsheet.
Designed by Wendy Bergman (Chin Chin, Mr Miyagi and Hawker Hall), the space takes advantage of its prime corner location with floor-to-ceiling windows letting natural light flood through as it moves from day to night. While the concrete facade might be described as brutalist, inside the 100-seat dining room is warm with rich timber panelling, textured tiles, brass accents and mustard corduroy booths lending a retro, den-like atmosphere.
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There’s also a bustling open kitchen behind a granite bar, where head chef Daniel Migliaccio (previously at Hanoi Hannah, with experience at Grossi and Neptune, too) is backed up by Adrian Li (Tokyo Tina, La Madonna and Zia Rina’s Cucina). Coming from an Italian household, Migliaccio grew up with hearty dishes served on the table to share. Likewise, at Studio Amaro family-style food reigns.
The menu is social, approachable and not tied down to a specific region of Italy. Instead, it evolves “through the seasons”, working with fresh produce available at the time. This might mean snacky antipasti like confit mushrooms with porcini dust; whipped ricotta with lemon oil; woodfired caponata; and tuna carpaccio with tomato, olive crumb and capers – all great for mopping up with bubbly sourdough focaccia fermented for almost 72 hours.
A large pasta extruder in the back kitchen, churning fresh batches daily, is another standout feature. Expect paccheri with ox tail ragu and pangrattato, prawn mafaldine with citrus bisque along with vegetarian and vegan options like conchiglie with chickpea soffrito. From the grill, tuck into a half chicken with black garlic salmoriglio and pickled chilli, or maybe the one-kilo T-bone with Averna amaro and peppercorn jus (foraged locally from trees in Prahran).
While the full menu is available throughout the day, there’s also a rotating selection of panini available to pre-order for pick up at lunch. And for something sweet, a tight but decadent selection is on offer. Choose between the (Italian-leaning) daily cake, hazelnut tartufo, rockmelon granita or affogato.
Downstairs in the basement bar (open for walk-ins only and serving food too), the energy dials up with moody lighting and ’80s Italo disco. And if you can’t make it to the party IRL, don’t worry – you can tune into Studio Amaro Radio online.
And of course there’s amaro (the bittersweet Italian digestivo) throughout the venue – 40 to 50 bottles of it. Have it neat or in one of the many amaro-leaning cocktails like the signature Nero Spritz. The team also has the classics covered, with Negroni Sbagliatos in the mix. For wine, there are both local and Italian bottles, plus a focus on table wine in carafes, courtesy of new-wave Mildura winery MDI.
168 Chapel Street, Windsor
Mon to Sun 12pm till late
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