Time Out Melbourne

Southgate can be a little hit and miss, but with the arrival of Artusi, they’ve got themselves another Italian hit

So, Artusi is the new venture from the guys behind Southgate’s Italian staple Tutto Bene. It's being pitched as the more relaxed version of it's restaurant sibling, but when you walk in you are referred to as Sir, and Ma’am. Napkins are lapped, water offerings are made and specials are recited with carefully articulation.

Artusi is serving a refined kind of Italian, much like head chef Leandro Panza’s food at Tutto Bene, but without wading too deep into the troublesome 'modern' category. Take Panza’s interpretation of tigelle. Traditionally, the small, round, grilled breads – a little like an English muffin; pride of Modena – are served with fillings like prosciutto on the side for DIY stuffing. Here, you get two to a serve and the fillings change daily. On our visit it's strips of wagyu, grilled radicchio and salsa verde which gives the faultless balance of salt, fat, bitterness and acid.

The carpaccio of rock flathead, lettuce and warm Sicilian dressing is fine, but nothing to write home about. If you're feeling a bit brave, the slow-cooked ox tongue bites like good sashimi and is served with served with soft-cooked quail eggs and a salsa verde. The overall dish lacks a little in texture, but house-made focaccia comes in handy for soaking up the oil and adding some welcome chew.

Pastas and mains are kept pretty simple and classic. The roasted spatchcock comes with Brussels sprouts separated into their individual leaves so they retain their crispness, complimented by thick batons of pancetta along a black garlic jus that ties the whole dish together. Fish of the day is snapper baked whole in a salt crust from the wood-fire oven. It’s a bit high maintenance, but worth it if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty.

Wines are European-leaning with an even balance of Australian and Italian examples by the glass. If you’re looking for something by the bottle, the list is extensive and Italian drops are clearly marked by region.

But let’s talk music for a moment. It’s probably just as important to your dining experience as the service you receive, and here the soundtrack is oddly out of step. Perhaps someone's gone rogue on Spotify on our night, but given Artusi’s many finer style of service, hearing the likes of Blondie, Amy Winehouse and the White Stripes in the dining room rattles us. Because Artusi isn’t really Tutto Bene’s younger, rebellious sibling; it’s a mature, manicured place, and that's fun enough without Debbie Harry’s loose-and-dirty ‘Rapture’ booming over your server.

Updated on 15 Aug 2014.

By Jess Ho   |   Photos by Graham Denholm

Artusi details

Southgate, Upper Lvl, UR1
3 Southgate Ave, Southbank 3006

Telephone 03 8199 1033

Nearby Stations: Flinders Street

Open Daily noon-late

Artusi website

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