Merchant Veneta Osteria

We were in Melbourne briefly to attend a celebration and friends suggested we go to the new Guy Grossi restaurant. Grossi is the Melbourne chef who has generally specialised in high-end Italian restaurants. This new one at the Rialto building on Collins Street, Melbourne is styled on all things Venetian and being passionate about Venice we could not wait to go.  What a wonderful fit the historical red brick Rialto building is for this restaurant, designed in the Gothic palazzo style with coloured tiles, polychromatic banding and pointed arches. The main use of the building is of course for the Intercontinental Hotel.

The Riato connection – for anyone who has not visited Venice yet, there is a famous bridge named the Rialto in the San Paolo Sestieri, the Venetian word for a neighbourhood.

Once inside Merchant you could definitely imagine you are in a Venetian Osteria. If you found one there with walls covered in graffiti you might be in the area where many students gather.  At the restaurant’s entrance you pass an impressive cheese storing and ripening room and once inside the restaurant proper you are led past a cabinet filled with various salumi,  preserved and dried meats in any other language and if that does not interest you the cabinet to the other side might just tantalize your sweet loving taste buds with its array of Italian dolci.

You can just see the cheese room to the left.

Before our meal order was taken along came the Manager with a tray to tempt us with an aperitif, the Bellini, a white peach and Prosecco concoction made famous by Harry’s Bar in Venice.

The composition of the menu encourages you to share dishes, but there is no pressure to do anything other than how you want to order and eat.

I liked the tableware design, simple and rustic.

We chose to share our plates and here you see Arancini de zafferan – flavoured with saffron and the Baccala′ mantecato is a creamy salted cod.

I will be back for an encore of these Sardele Arrotolate – ok just sardines wrapped in pancetta and cooked to perfection.

For four people these serves were just right. The Risotto salcicce e radecio, you guessed it, sausage and radicchio. The rabbit was braised and the creamy soft polenta supported a duck ragu.

The chef generously sent out the braised cabbage known as Crauti, the potatoes bore the name Patate alla Veneziana but in all languages they are crispy roasted potatoes.

I can even get excited about the simple green pea when they are braised like this Bisi stufà.

We left dolci for another visit, as we were off to another restaurant for the special celebration.

I hope this restaurant succeeds as there are so many to choose from in Melbourne.

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  1. #1 by bagnidilucca on July 26, 2011 - 11:23 am

    This looks yummy! I think I need to go.

  2. #2 by Celia on July 26, 2011 - 8:33 pm

    It all looks fantastic! I love the gondola at the entrance!

  3. #3 by maryd on July 26, 2011 - 9:06 pm

    I’m salivating.!

  4. #4 by Journey Photographic on July 30, 2011 - 2:36 pm

    This sounds (and looks) mouthwateringly good!

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