If you live in St Kilda, Prahran or South Yarra – you have a new pizza contender that has stepped up to the plate to take on the big guns of Mr Wolf, Ladro and Chris Lucas’ newly opened Baby Pizza. La Svolta has secretly slotted inself down a side street off Chapel St, almost running parallel to Greville St (home of Ladro), and right across from the newly renovated David’s.
With owners Valerio Calabro and Giuseppe Russo sticking with a formula that they know works after a successful opening in Hampton, the new outpost, evermore creeping closer to the CBD, on Cecil Street has brought authentic Italian to the inner southern suberbs. They must have a stable of Italian mares cause each and every person who we encountered here on our first visit weren’t putting those accents on for theme park fun.
The space is split into two – an open restaurant with the other half being kept for barflys and walk-ins. The main restaurant space is sizeable and needs people to fill it to give it some heart, considering how good the honest and earthy cooking coming out of the kitchen is.
The large specials chalkboard takes up the entirety of one wall – in which they utilise the map idea that we have seen previously at D.O.C. on their menus. But is the huge hand-drawn map of Italy with vines and grapes right? It gives off a kind of rusticity that don’t really translate to the rest of the decor of the restaurant, which is all concrete floors, exposed brick and harsh lighting against black walls.
This industrial decor is in contrast to the old-school Italian music being played, which is reminiscent of the places you would visit while on holiday, which have red-and-white tablecloths and the only light being a solitary candle on each table.
But we are here for the food and the first dish that comes out has exactly what you would expect to get from a trattoria in Italy. There is certainly a strong emphaisis on basic but authentic ingredients.
First up we ordered the La Svolta Tasting Plate - a sharing platter of antipasti for $27. Particular standouts were salami, the creamy rice-filled arancini and ham and cheese croquettes.
As you would do in Italy, the pasta course naturally comes next and I went for something that piqued my interest on the specials board – gnocchi with barramundi in Napoli sauce. Would it come out as a side of barra draped over the top of some pasta? Luckily not. It came exactly as I had hoped – broken down into flakes with a slight kick of chili to make things interesting.
Handing over to Wordmonkey for the decision on pizza we went for Signor George - tomato, fior di latte mozzarella, salami and chilli – although she thinks there wasn’t enough chilli. But then she does like lashings of chilli. Now I will admit this, I am a particularly fussy pizza eater. The simpler the toppings, the better. And I am particularly against swamp bottom – the term I give to the soppy mess that happenes right at the centre of the pizza when the base isn’t crispy enough and the toppings too liquid-y. I’m just not into that. For the most part this pizza lived up to expectation but I thought that a few less olives would have balanced out the saltiness here.
Secondi wasn’t an option as were were reaching our food limit, but we did try the chocolate and raspberry cake, which was split between the two of us rather than trying to pick at it from the centre of the table. We couldn’t see the raspberry but boy it was in there, not as chunks of fruit but as a kind of puree that had been swirled into the cake mix. A very smooth cake that made sure our meal ended on a real high.
With Italian this authentic, the establishment had better be worried as the mafia has just strolled into town.
3-5 Cecil Place
03 9510 3001