Every Cinderella has a sister – usually she's plainer but often she's more comely with her favours. The Cellar Bar sits beside Iron Chef Guy Grossi's esteemed Grossi Florentino and offers a smaller and much less sophisticated menu than what frolics next door, but by god, she's hard to beat in the satisfaction stakes.
The emphasis here is on hearty Italian creations at reasonable prices. It's a formula that's worked a treat since this Melbourne institution opened in the '50s and it's an approach not likely to lose fans as the 21st century staggers on.
The $11 spaghetti bolognese bursts forth from a rich, zinging sugo that requires an obligatory final sweep with hard-crusted, soft-bellied bread. Equally awesome is the crumbed veal served with fontina cheese, the melanzane alla parmigiana and the porcini mushroom bruschetta – all classics dishes minimally reduxed.
Cabbies and courtesans, gangsters and government. All can be found ringside at the bar, shovelling sweet solace down their craws with no care for airs and graces, enjoying a good selection of local and imported wines and attentive table service.
Breakfast runs from 7.30am and is best enjoyed on Bourke Street so as to consume the passing parade with as much gusto as we reserved for the house-pressed Grossi Muesli Bar. Bypass the $9 "Kellogs cornflakes" and head to the Uovo in Tegamo – coddled Clarew free range eggs with brioche toast and caramelised bacon – proof positive this twisted sister is worth a second date.