The owners of Hawthorn’s Vaporetto didn’t plan to open a Venetian-style wine bar. But when the team of four was shown the site it couldn’t imagine it as anything else.

"We all love Italy, and Venice especially,” says co-owner Stephanie Edgerton. “It’s such a fairytale city.”

It was only later Vaporetto’s owners realised “Lido”, the name of the cinema complex their wine bar was housed in, is also the name of a Venetian island; one you travel to by vaporetto (“water taxi”).

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“The whole thing was fate – totally meant to be,” says Egerton, who is joined in the venture by Greg Feck, Kim Coronica (both Crabapple Kitchen) and David Wickwar (ex-Sappore).

They’ve gone crazy with the theme. The bar’s façade is lifted from a century-old Venetian tobacconist shop, and they have two hand-blown Murano glass chandeliers hanging over the white Carrara marble bar. Venetian masks hang from blue walls. Timber panels and shelving inspired by Venice’s Caffè Florian (the oldest cafe in the world, established in 1720) run along one side.

Sit on the red-leather banquette or one of the high-backed, brown-leather stools and order from the cicchetti menu. It will change fairly regularly, but at the moment it includes sweet-and-sour sardines with fennel, truffled Sopressa salami and spanner-crab arancini. The venue is inspired by Venice’s famous Harry’s Bar, so you’ll also find Harry’s famous toasted sandwich, the pierino, made with prosciutto, Emmental cheese, cayenne and mustard.

The famous Bellini from Harry’s is also on the menu – made with prosecco and crushed white peach. Other cocktails include Vaporetto’s version of an Aperol Spritz (the “Vaperol Spritz”), made with mandarin liqueur and garnished with olives. Wine is an obvious focus, with a decent range from Italy and Australia, including three (pinot grigio, rose and sangiovese) on tap.

On April 1 the team will pull down the temporary wall at the back of the bar to reveal a split-level, 70-seat restaurant.

“We want the bar to feel like something you’d have stumbled into in Venice centuries ago,” says Feck. “But the restaurant will be more modern, more Venice-meets-Hawthorn.

“I want to pay homage to classic Venetian flavours and the history of Venetian cuisine, but still keep it fresh and vibrant.”

Expect fresh seafood and lots of pasta. “On any one day we’ll have about six or seven handmade pasta dishes,” says Egerton. The full restaurant menu will be available to order in the bar, too.

Vaporetto Wine Bar
Rear 681 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
(Enter via Grace Street, or through the Lido arcade)
(03) 9078 5492

Sun to Thu 5pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 5pm–12am

Hours will extend when restaurant section opens in April.