When Rod Micallef was 19 years old, he struggled to find a restaurant that would take him on as an apprentice chef. So he signed a lease on a kitchen and gave himself a job.

Taking things into his own hands worked; after more than a decade cooking in restaurants throughout Melbourne, Micallef was ready to strike out on his own again – this time with something bigger.

Micallef established Zonzo Estate, just outside Yarra Glen, in 2007, starting the restaurant first, then following it up with a vineyard and winery.

Zonzo is a slick space. Rustic features – such as the old milking shed – make it a popular wedding destination and a very picturesque lunch backdrop. String lighting connects the space between the shed and main dining hall – a modern room with exposed timbers matched against striking black tones. There are polished concrete floors throughout.

You might be seated in the barn one day, or on the outdoor terrace or in the more formal indoor space on others. Across these multiple spaces the estate can seat 500 people.

Gumtrees might usher you up the driveway on arrival, but olive trees are the key feature of the outdoor dining experience set the ideal backdrop for a European-style feast.

The menu is typically Italian: family-style sharing of dishes such as arancini, baked meatballs, burrata and antipasti for starters. There are around 20 pizzas on the menu.

Zonzo’s wines are a diverse and mainly classic bunch. There are all of the usual – mainly French – varieties to choose from, but the moscato is a particular highlight on a summer day.

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Updated: February 9th, 2023

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