Review: Artusi, Southbank

Originally published on Concrete Playground.

Riverside views and respected Italian food.

In Italian, ‘artusi’ means the art of eating and drinking well. It’s a philosophy deeply embedded in the dishes at the modern Italian restaurant of the same name in the riverside Southgate precinct.

Flashes of copper, blond oak timber tables and giant windows giving way to views of the Yarra make up Artusi’s warm dining environment. The Chris Connell interiors (as seen in Melbourne Dining Room, Carousel, Heide Cafe) don’t give any hints that it’s an Italian restaurant — that is, until your eye catches the massive wood-fired oven in the restaurant’s corner. The unmistakably Italian-structured menu is also a giveaway, offering antipasti, pasta, secondicontori (sides) and of course, dolci.

The rowing crews and boat traffic on the Yarra are enough to entertain diners, let alone the energy that translates from Artusi’s open kitchen. It’s headed by chef Nicola Romano, who hails from Brescia, in northern Italy. He may suggest starting you with the South Australian octopus with avocado, chickpeas and chilli oil ($17). To our surprise, the veal shank terrine with dollops of hot mustard was one of the most pleasant (and prettiest) dishes on the menu.

It’s okay if you don’t speak Italian, as you can probably already speak pasta — which Artusi has plenty of. The spaghetti with octopus ragu, topped with a burnt leek and onion powder ($30) is a knockout, so intense in flavour it could transcend you to southern Italy. If tentacles don’t entice you, the braised beef-filled agnolotti with cheese in red wine ($21) is a sweet, substantial alternative.

The wine list honours the homeland, arranged under headings of Italy’s notable wine regions: Piedmont, Veneto and Toscana. It’s so extensive, one could become lost in it. Artusi has a range of classic Italian cocktails available, from Bellinis and pirlos, to espresso martinis and Negronis.

It’s easy to waltz through the Southgate Centre, writing restaurants off as average tourist traps. But if your soul seeks respected and creative food with riverside scenery, slip into Artusi. It’s well worth a visit.

Image credit: supplied


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