• Osteria Ilaria (Melbourne CBD)

We are spoilt for choice in this city. A restaurant has to be good to survive, and as diners we are as discerning as any metropolis. Word-of-mouth is key.

Osteria Ilaria was recommended to me for the crave-worthy cabbage that finished on the menu the week before I finally got to try this place. But with a new menu and an extensive wine list, we were still tempted.

Entering Osteria Ilaria, you would believe it to be more of a wine bar with its dim lighting, fully stocked bar and extensive list of local, Italian and other international wines.

The bar tended awkwardly flipped through the menu as we told him we wanted something fruity and not too expensive, eventually selecting a bottle of Erste Neue Pinto Grigio ($62). My friend declare it was exactly what she felt like. It was subtle and fresh with a light acidity and light mineral finish. It was complex enough to enjoy alone, but balanced enough to have with our meals to come.

Unfortunately there are not many vegetarian options on the menu. For mains, the choice is gnocchi with asparagus, or paccheri (a thick tubed pasta) which is usually served with prawns, but they can take out the prawns and serve it without any added extras for the same price. Instead of the cabbage, there is char grilled broccoli with sheep’s curd. There are a couple of vegetarian starters, so you could make a meal out of several of these if you are not too hungry.

The porcini mushroom croquettes (as a starter) were with creamy mushrooms, crumbed and fried. The mushrooms were light without being gluggy (as can often happen with croquettes), but strong in flavour. We really enjoyed these little tastes.

The paccheri was long rolls of fresh pasta, cooked perfectly al dente. This was served with a tomato sugo. This dish could have been made a lot more interesting if it is being advertised as a vegetarian option available, but I suppose most would select the gnocchi instead.

The grilled broccoli was delicious. It was cut into long florets and charred black on the ends. It was served with goats’ curd and roasted macadamias. This was a highlight.

Interested in the desserts, we could not understand anything from the description on the menu. We opted for the ‘Gianduja vienetta, pepperberry, hazelnut’. It was layers of semi-freddo with chocolate and hazelnut and an encasing of marshmallow, thin and toasted. It was not at all what we had expected, and was delicious.

I’d come back here mainly for the atmosphere, the wine and shared starters over drinks. The food was delicious, and we were fully satisfied, but unless you want asparagus gnocchi, the smaller dishes appear to hold more interest for vegetarians.

Osteria Ilaria
367 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne 3000
03 9642 2287

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday, 11:30am to 10:30pm

Osteria Ilaria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato