Call it “the Milan end” of Melbourne: Ronnie Di Stasio does. Last week, the man behind St Kilda’s Café and Bar Di Stasio finalised the purchase of a Spring Street property opposite Treasury Gardens. Between Collins Street and Flinders Lane, the site will become Di Stasio Citta.
It will be, as Di Stasio puts it simply, “an Italian eating bar with classic cocktails.”
The facade has been hidden behind scaffolding so long it’s almost forgotten – a building to be hurried past on the way to somewhere else. Safe to say with this news it isn’t staying that way.
“Everyone who’s heard about this has said, ‘Oh, it’s amazing.’ But it’s not a surprise to me,” Di Stasio says. “I came from the city.”
Di Stasio is of course referring to Rosati, the Flinders Lane restaurant he opened in 1985 with Piero Gesualdi that laid a foundation for the laneway culture to come. But it was his eponymous restaurant Café Di Stasio, and the next-door bar he opened in 2013, that cemented him as one of this city’s best-loved restaurateurs.
“I don’t like the word ‘opportunity’. This is more of an evolution, or organic,” he says. “We like what we’re doing in St Kilda. We like the bar. This situation came up, and it sounds and feels right.”
In early October Di Stasio was approached by Cbus, the super fund developers that recently added to its Spring Street portfolio. Things progressed quickly.
“I went to the city by myself, Ubered in to see how long it takes, and as soon as I walked into the space, I felt it,” Di Stasio says. “We did the necessary talking and left it with them.”
At such an early stage Di Stasio is sparing with details, but has engaged two Australian artists who both exhibited at the recent Venice Biennale to work on the project. Architects for the restaurant will be Hassell, the international design studio who’s Melbourne HQ is two blocks away on Little Collins Street.
“This is just around the corner from where Rosati was,” says Di Stasio’s long-time restaurant manager Mallory Wall. “When Ronnie did that 35 years ago, there was nothing. To be coming back now, when there’s something tucked in every corner, it’s come full circle.”
“Every 30 years you’re entitled to a hole in one,” Di Stasio smiles. It's a joke, but if past form is anything to go by, he just might have one on his hands.
Di Stasio Citta is slated for a June 2018 launch. Subscribe to the Broadsheet newsletter for the latest.