Three of us converged on the restaurant all at different times with a booking. Service was happy to provide Hepburn Springs sparkling water ($8) whilst the various parties waited for each other to arrive. Nothing seemed to be too hard or inconvenient for service at the restaurant and I found it a rather relaxed environment. Fortunately being the second to arrive, I was able to take a chair in the front dining room which enabled me to face the erotic artwork on the wall. When the conversation ultimately became quite boring and tedious at various points in the afternoon, I would inspect every detail of the art in my view. Not because I am a pervert, but just because I found the imagery fascinating and much more interesting than the conversation at times.
A Sorrenberg Gamay ($75) from Beechworth, VIC, was the first bottle of wine to arrive. I thought it would be appropriate being light and fruity, which would have matched well with nearly anything that we would order as an entree. Gamay is really the only grape grown in France's Beaujolais region and our friends in Beechworth have done an excellent job developing it into a light and cheerful vintage that would stand alone as a drinking wine and is even better with food. I paired the soufflé of blue swimmer crab meat with shallot and lemon thyme served on a champagne and chive velouté ($20.50) which although would be perceived as a smaller starter compared to others available, it was packed with flavour and really complemented the Gamay. Swimmer crab is a personal favourite of mine and I was impressed.
When the Sorrenberg had been vanquished and remained as a mere memory, a bottle of 2010 Erath Pinot Noir ($70) from Willamette Valley, Oregon USA, was sourced. I started to appreciate wine from this region more after attending Pinot Palozza in Melbourne last year. As the region had not been producing grapes for that long, classically I have always ignored it but found that the Erath, despite being more of a fruity wine, I thought would selfishly match my main quite well; the special venison leg fillet with potato gnocchi, baby beets and a chestnut ragu ($41.50). The venison was roasted rare and was amazing. Very lean cuts combined with a beautiful purple-rare colour complimented both the ragu and potato gnocci like a dream. I am glad that I opted for the lighter wine so that it did not overwhelm the taste of the deer and in the end I was satisfied by the large portion provided. My dining companions seemed to enjoy their respective scotch fillet ($41.50) and duck leg ($40.50) and were equally impressed by the matching of the wine.
Throughout the extended dining experience service remained consultative and patient. Head chef Michelle Elia has devised a smart menu where the fundamentals of Italian cuisine can shine and when served in the cozy confines of the dining room, or even the back bar which is open on weekends, makes for an experience within itself. Making a journey to the toilet requires you to leave the restaurant completely with a key that will grant you access to shared facilities in the complex. When I spotted the junkies hanging out at the entrance to the restroom I decided my bladder was not that full and instead retreated back to the dining room knowing that I had the resolve to hold it in until we visited a bar afterwards.
I would certainly return to Cicciolina and it does make for an alternative to Café Di Stasio if you are looking to enjoy Italian cuisine in St Kilda.
130 Acland St., St Kilda VIC 3182
(03) 9525 3333
My Rating: 15/20
Value For Money: 3.75/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
At the time of this post, 87% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Cicciolina.