The name of Melbourne’s much loved Italian restaurant Il Solito Posto, means ‘the usual place’. Once you enter, the warm ambience and vibe feels like you could be in a Trattoria somewhere in Rome tucked away in one of those cobbled stone laneways.
Michael Tenace and business partner Theo Poulakis opened the restaurant 26 years ago. Backers told them the position, down one of Melbourne’s now-famous laneways, would never work.
Nearly three decades later they’ve proved everyone wrong.
If you didn’t know the location or address, you’d probably walk straight past Il Solito Posto’s discreet entrance. But that’s part of its charm.
The gorgeous restaurant offers casual meals in the cafeteria or a more formal dining experience in the Trattoria.
Once inside, the staff usher us down to our table in the lower level Trattoria, where the wall is stacked with wine.
We choose drinks from the extensive awarded wine list and kick start the night with a couple of delicious Martinis.
On the menu
Over the years some dishes have remained unchanged and the menu still includes one of the originals; Veal Ragu.
This prevalent dish is slow-cooked for four to five hours then left to rest for a few days. This allows the flavours to infuse superbly.
We shared two dishes from the special’s board as an entre.
Il Solito Posto’s pork belly with watercress and balsamic glaze topped with an apple sauce & hazelnut was tender and melt in your mouth deliciousness. The chicken liver parfait with a balsamic shallot and crostini was silky smooth, buttery and perfectly compatible with the slithers of crunchy crostini.
For mains, I ordered the house-made potato gnocchi with blue cheese, crème, caramelised pear, sage and walnuts.
To say this was one of the best Italian restaurant meals I’ve had and that is an understatement. The delicate gnocchi combined beautifully with the sharpness of the creamy blue cheese, infused with the delicate crème. The sweetness of the caramelised pear added another layer of complexity and the crunch of walnuts made every bite the perfect combination.
My partner ordered the house special Veal Ragu with penne pasta, one of Il Solito Posto’s longest-standing meals on the menu. I couldn’t resist a taste.
The aroma of the dish makes you feel like you’re at your Italian auntie’s place about to eat her homemade food – even if you’re not Italian. It has a rich yet not too heavy full flavour with just the right amount of herbs and spices. Sometimes the dishes that seem simple are the hardest ones to perfect. With this dish, Il Solito Posto has certainly achieved perfection.
A sweet ending
We shared three dishes for dessert.
Il Solito Posto’s classic Budino al cioccolato is a delicious soft-centred chocolate pudding with roasted hazelnuts and vanilla ice cream. The popular dish has a warm oozing centre of delicate creamy chocolate.
We also chose the Tiramisu – sponge finger biscuits soaked in coffee and liqueur and layered with sweetened Mascarpone. The subtle combination of ingredients in this Italian favourite is light and fluffy and made to perfection.
And lastly the Gelato e sorbetto – a selection of homemade gelato, nut praline. With delicious flavours ranging from creamy and rich to tangy and light, this is the perfect way to end a delightful evening.
Il Solito Posto quick facts:
Reviewer: Daniel Resnik
Dining style: Regional Italian dishes
Perfect for: Any occasion, but maybe leave the kids at home
Catering for: Couples, groups and special celebrations
Tuesday: 11:30 -10pm
Contact: www.Ilsolitoposto.com.au or (03) 9654 4466
The final word: My experience at Il Solito Posto was unpretentious and yet sophisticated dining and it left me wanting to come back again to try other dishes on their delectable menu.
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