I actually have a Zia Rosetta who lives in Rome. She’d be pretty damn thrilled to think Neil Perry had named a Melbourne restaurant after her. This place has been the talk of the town since it opened. Initially, there were plenty of “what does Neil Perry know about Italian” comments, then various writers said its like going to your Italian Nonna’s house. Now I don’t know about you, but neither of my Nonna’s would ever charge $45 for a cotoletta. The scrutiny was on.
The room is old style opulence, you expect to see the Godfather in a corner sitting with his cronies. Huge chandeliers, a wall of black and white photos of Italian movie stars, waiters in white jackets (plenty of them native Italians), polished service, and a lovely atmosphere. You can also sit outside but it doesn’t really compare to the interior.
On the menu:
House made ricotta with roast tomato. The ricotta itself was creamy and lush, but awfully small for $16. It could have done without the tomato, and the bread was too charred, so that when you spread the ricotta on it, it was overpowered. I would have just liked a simple (larger) round of ricotta with no tomato, and some plain beautiful bread, and it would have done the trick.
Prosciutto San Daniele with nectarine and hazelnut. Excellent prosciutto which went well with the sweetness of the nectarine.
Beef Carpaccio, red witlof, anchovy mayonnaise & parmesan. Again excellent, no complaints.
Grigliata Mista di Mare – charcoal grilled prawns, cuttlefish, calamari and mussels with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. Really lovely, especially the cuttlefish and calamari.
Polpette al forno – meat balls oven baked in a tomato sauce. The competition from my Nonna was too steep here, and they didn’t do it for me – however everyone else thought they were great.
Spaghetti alla Chitarra - prawns and pistachio. There was way too much oil in this, there was a pool in my plate at the bottom, and the pistachio was over toasted. I was hoping this would be a wow dish but it wasn’t. The spaghetti itself though were beautifully done.
Tagliarini Neri with warm mud crab with fresh chilli and lemon zest – again beautifully done pasta, but crikey, $65, and $97.50 in a main size – even if it was hand picked by Virgin Maidens or whatever the spiel was.
Wood fire roasted duck, mattone style with braised cherries. The waiter had us sold on this after telling us the duck was steamed, then deboned, and then cooked with a hot brick (mattone). And it lived up to the hype. The serve was very generous and the duck was divine. However I didn’t rate the braised cherries, they were overpowering for this dish. The stellar duck just didn’t need them – a simple puree of cauliflower or similar would have worked well.
Cotoletta: pan-fried crumbed boneless veal loin with lemon. I got a shock at the size of this, its really huge (in fact we were having bets about what percentage the slight woman at the next table would polish off), so you could share it between two and the price then looks reasonable. But it was a little dry and didn’t have enough flavour (Nonna competition again).
And to finish, some fresh gelato, in this case white peach and pistachio, generous and flavoursome, but so-so as far as gelato goes.
The wine list is extensive with a huge selection of Italian wines, but of course mostly high end pricing to match the menu. There really isn’t much under $100 a bottle.
Overall for food and drinks you won’t get much change out of $150 a person – it is very very expensive Italian (Nonna would have fed the entire village), and while I’m glad I tried it, and it might be good for a big night out or special occasion, I wouldn’t rush back for that sort of price.
Rosetta Ristorante, Crown Complex, 8 Whiteman Street, ph (03) 8648 1999