Sleek, urbane: these are adjectives are not typically associated with Wattletree Road in Malvern East. Though if Melbourne’s food scene has taught us anything over the last few years, it’s to not underestimate the suburbs and their culinary-rich gems (i.e., Attica). Riserva Wine certainly fits this mould.

The European-style wine bar, which opened in March, was designed by Samantha Eades (who also did the fit-out at Chin Chin). Its co-owners are Frank Ciorciari (Sette Bello and Cafe Sapore) and Gian Chiaravalle (Otto Lane) and everything about the place says Europe.

“I’m quite a keen traveller,” says Ciorciari, who travels to the continent once a year with his wife and son. “Europe is at the forefront of matching wine with food. At Riserva we’re trying to stick to [that] tradition.”

After making his start 17 years ago behind the bar at Cafe Di Stasio, Ciorciari worked his way into a plumb job at the Mercedes McLaren Formula 1 catering team, which took him all over Europe serving bigwigs such as Rowan Atkinson and the Queen of England. (“Because she’s not my queen there was no pressure,” he says.)

Ciorciari’s travels clearly leave a mark on Riserva’s diverse pan-European menu, headed by chef Andrew Marasco (formerly sous chef at Sette Bello).

Starters include Coffin Bay oysters; charcuterie, including a lardy and translucent Culatello from Parma; and Baccala Mantecato (dried and salted cod), which is poached in milk and served on crostini – a favourite in Veneto, Northern Italy.

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For mains, there’s a simple spaghetti Vongole served with local clams, topped with bottarga (dried fish); veal rib coated in herbed panko crumbs (aka Cotoletta, the so-called schnitzel of Milan) served with spinach; or a Franco-German-style confit duck leg with sauerkraut and cherry reduction.

Riserva also offers more than 100 by-the-bottle wines (15 served by the glass), which are featured around the store and also sold retail (similar to Marion or Atlas Vinifera). Its list is slightly audacious for a 21st century neighbourhood wine bar: there isn’t a single Australian drop on it. The mostly European selection includes some of Ciorciari’s favourites, such as the E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Syrah, which is similar in taste to an Australian Shiraz; or the Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico, a juicy and plump medium-bodied sangiovese that, Ciorciari says, goes well the charcuterie or formaggi. There’s also a good selection of beer and spirits.

For dessert, the rustic cannoli is made in the traditional non-Sicilian style (without ricotta), with chocolate and vanilla custard. They’ve opted for a Spanish crème Catalan – slightly thinner than a French brûlée, Ciorciari says.

Riserva Wine
395 Wattletree Road, Malvern East

(03) 9500 8885

Mon to Thur 3pm–11pm
Fri 12pm–11.30pm
Sat & Sun 8am–11:30pm