Time Out Melbourne

The team from Bar Lourinha add the next winning restaurant to Gertrude Street

At Casa Ciuccio, you can order whole octopus tentacles of variously menacing sizes. The appendages come to your table all charred and covered in oil and thyme, with a neat cheek of lemon held in its coiled grasp – like the ‘pus was slain in the midst of making a G & T. Shame. It’s exactly the kind of dish you’d predict from the Bar Lourinha crew – and it’s just as rustic and awesome as you’d expect.

This is the new venture for Jo Gamvros, Simon Benjamin and chef Matt McConnell, and like Bar Lou, it’s a smooth ride from the second you walk through the door (or accidentally climb though the door-like open window next to it…). You’re bumping elbows with silver foxes and combat-booted snackers around a big, flower-and-fruit strewn communal dining table, and though there’s a menu, ordering is just a case of watching what your neighbours get and rating their reactions.

Take it as written that you'll be drinking wine (mostly Victorian, with a few French and Portuguese accents). There are but two beers and hard booze is all destined for pre-eat drinks. Eleven types of gin, Aperol, vermouths and Pimmsy things make fine concoctions, but how about kicking off with some chilled Amontillado? A superior sherry to that quaffed by your nan, if you pair it with a few fat olives and some spice-dusted nuts from the snack section, it’s one of the best possible ways to luge into dinner.

That’s what we love about eating at both Bar Lou and Ciuccio. Gamvros and co nail the European dining experience. Which, if done right, is a seamless progression of this-goes-with-that followed by this, so you sort of float through dinner without noticing anyone pulling the strings, ending up full, hazy and not quite sure what just happened.

And by that token, it’s inevitable that roasted haunches of pig, beef rib or suckling kid will end up amongst the debris of your salty jamón, butter-soft bonito (a bit like tuna) cured in lemon, and creamy mozzarella balls, skewered with basil. All beasts are roasted over a coal pit out back and sectioned into meaty, partially scorched chunks. Rich veins of sticky fat are turned translucent by hours of smoldering. The meats come with lemon, which you need, and utensils, which you don’t. Order a side of baby cos lettuce, cleaved into neat wedges with a zing of lime and little discs of crunchy radish. The green tomato salad is a tart mouthwash too, but we’re too proteined up to take on the accompanying slab of soft buffalo cheese.

You just can’t go wrong on Gertrude Street these days, with the Everleigh, Cutler, and now the Builders Arms (owned by Matt McConnell's bro, Andrew). And yet with its casual good-time vibes, bright, umbrella-strewn courtyard and razor sharp service, this little joint, even with a baleful ass for a mascot, still stands out.

The Hit List: our guide to the essential Melbourne restaurants to conquer

First published on . Updated on .

By Gemima Cody   |   Photos by Graham Denholm

Casa Ciuccio details

Address
15 Gertrude St, Fitzroy 3065

Telephone 03 8488 8150

Open Tue-Thu noon-11pm; Fri-Sat noon-1am

Casa Ciuccio website

Casa Ciuccio map

Report a problem with this page

Restaurants and bars nearby

The Catfish

56m - We can’t lie. We’re usually sucked in here by the meaty, cheesy allure...

Cutler and Co

102m - We have one really big regret from our recent meal at Cutler: not ordering...

Sonido

152m - Nothing says power breakfast like a Colombian hot pocket. Arepas are disks...

More restaurants and bars nearby

Other venues nearby

Victoria Mason

29m - Victoria Mason’s jewellery champions the mundane; everyday household items...

Cottage Industry

147m - It’s winter, and Cottage Industry makes us feel all warm inside. Channel...

Little Salon

158m - If you've run out of gift ideas then head to Little Salon, stocked with cute...

Saint Cloud

163m - Sporting a judicious selection of high-end bike parts, merino vintage tees...

More venues nearby
Cookie

Cookie

Cookie offers a heady blend of children’s books and grown-up drinks

Vue De Monde

Vue De Monde

Vue De Monde still represents the pinnacle of fine-dining in Melbourne, if you can get in

COS

COS

COS - Collection of Style - is at The Strand

Cumulus Inc

Cumulus Inc

Find cloudy-but-fine dining in Flinders Lane

Readers' comments, reviews, hints and pictures

Community guidelines

blog comments powered by Disqus