25 Spring St, Melbourne CBD
We arrived … on a Friday afternoon, ready to splurge on a long lunch to celebrate our long weekend in Melbourne. But before we could kick back and indulge in our pasta fantasies, we had to figure out where the restaurant was.
Google maps informed us we had arrived - but there was no signage on the street. As we peered through the red glass facade, we discovered, yes, this was the place. But were then faced with an automatic door that wouldn't open.
Further investigation revealed there is a small button to your left which will magically open the door. Throughout our meal, we noticed nearly every new arrival faced the same conundrum. It's pretentious, unwelcoming and just not that accessible.
We chose here because … It's on just about every list of top Melbourne restaurants and had been recommended by a friend in the know, who tipped us off that it's soon to be named Melbourne's best restaurant by a very prestigious food magazine. We were warned it's pricey but good fun - and the food is excellent.
Our first impression was … Not great. Following the door debacle, we were seated by the maitre d', who asked if we'd like a glass of champagne to start. Before we could reply, he disappeared.
Moments later, we were presented with two glasses of Taittinger, at a cost of AUD$27 ($28.10) each. We were then told the specials by three waiters, each of whom was charmingly Italian, but alarmingly vague about the menu.
One of us has a food allergy and every time we tried to explain this to our servers, they had no idea what we were talking about. One seemed to think that butter and gluten were the same things.
We started with … one of the day's specials. Clams sauteed in butter with lemon and white wine, served with buttered toast. The sauce was deliciously rich and thicker than expected, almost bordering on a bisque or gravy.
We were limited to gluten-free bread but could see thick slices of crusty fresh bread on neighbouring tables and could but dream of how tasty they would be, soaked in dark, buttery sauce.
The highlight was … definitely not the gluten-free pasta, which was store-bought and undercooked. But the real issue lay with the sauce. The mushroom pasta shared the same flavour profile as the clams - salty, buttery and rich.
The prawn linguini, however, which promised "lemon and sunshine" tasted of nothing at all. It also contained a grand total of about two prawns, shredded into tiny morsels. Our side orders of grilled radicchio and polenta with a parmesan crust also came soaked in salted butter. We could feel our arteries closing with every bite.
Dessert was … offered, deliberated, chosen but never ordered - as our server never returned to our table. After waiting half an hour, we gave up and went to the bar to pay.
Come here if … you enjoy style over substance - or flavour. There's no question Di Stasio Citta makes an impression and it is fun to watch the flamboyant array of clientele who gather here.
The bil l… came to AUD$260 for a starter, two entree-sized pastas, two sides, two glasses of champagne and a bottle of wine. Which is, frankly, far too much for such an underwhelming experience.