This restaurant is now closed.

Scusami has been part of the Melbourne dining scene for very many years. It’s been at least a dozen since Greedy Girl and her dear friend Bev the cook had a girls’ night out there. At the time, it was one of the more noted Italian restaurants in this foodie city. While the original crew is long gone, the style of food has remained fairly constant. Despite that, there’s been very little buzz lately about this restaurant. Scusami, much like the entire Southgate precinct, has become a bit like that relative you don’t see very often. You know you should pay them a visit but something else always seems to come up.

Despite its excellent position (particularly at night where the view over the nearby Flinders Street station is improved by illumination and the twinkling lights in the CBD office buildings behind), the restaurant floor looks a bit tired. On a sunny day or balmy night, the terrace area would provide a lovely aspect, but on this particular spring Sunday, it was too cool to sit outside. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband opted for a quiet table in a corner. We were the first to arrive for the lunch service and Greedy Girl commented the restaurant didn’t seem quite as glamorous as she’d remembered.

This was our second foray into coupon dining. The deal, for $89, promised us three courses plus a bottle of wine to the value of $55. The reality, as our very pleasant waitress explained, was that we could spend up to $205 before we needed to top up. While normally we would share a dessert, Greedy Girl spied one of her all-time favourites (more on that later) so we chose three courses apiece and then contemplated the wine list. Gluttonous husband being good with figures, we toted up the cost of our choices and estimated that, with a bottle of Coldstream Hills pinot noir on top, we’d be up for an extra $10. All told, we thought it was a bargain.

According to the Scusami website, the head chef is Daniel Collins who started cooking in England under such Italian cooking luminaries as Giorgio Locatelli and Angela Hartnett. He’s also worked for other notable chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Jason Atherton and Marcus Wareing.
There is plenty to choose from on the menu. We chose calamari fritti and stuffed zucchini flowers to start. Our attentive and personable waitress immediately asked if we’d like to share. We would!

The calamari had a polenta crumb and was served simply on a bed of rocket with lemon wedges and a ‘home made’ aioli. It was perfectly tender and not at all greasy but Greedy Girl would have preferred it to be cooked just a little longer to achieve a more golden colour.

The zucchini flowers, or fiori di zucca ripieni as they are described on the menu were perfectly edible, if not a wow. The stuffing was goat’s cheese and pine nuts and the dish was served on rocket with a light tomato sauce. The flowers, as you’d hope, were very tender and the cheese and pine nut mixture was delicious, but the stalks were a little on the tough side.
We then moved to mains. Greedy Girl chose fillet steak with a spelt risotto and porcini cream.

This was a large dish with a liberal sprinkling of broad beans, wilted greens and some roasted carrots. The beef was tender and the porcini mushroom sauce was very good. Greedy Girl found the spelt risotto to be a little stodgy and the roasted carrots were just a bit too dry for her liking.

Gluttonous husband chose costata di vitello – a veal cutlet served with an olive crust, artichokes, asparagus salad and salsa verde.

It was an attractive-looking plate but the olive crust was very salty and the texture was just too dry. Gluttonous husband tried a few bites but ended up scraping the remainder to the side of the plate. The veal was a little overcooked, except next to the bone where it was moist and succulent. Gluttonous husband said he enjoyed the salad and artichokes and was well pleased with the salsa verde which had a power of anchovy flavour.

Our red wine was light enough to be enjoyed with the starters as well as a decent pairing for the mains. Coldstream Hills is part of the Treasury Wine Estates conglomerate but noted wine writer and judge James Halliday was the original winemaker and is still involved with the Yarra Valley vineyard. We wanted to savour the wine and asked our waitress if we could delay dessert until we’d finished. Not a problem.
Desserts were an absolute triumph. Gluttonous husband opted for tiramisu while Greedy Girl had one of her all-time favourites, zabaglione.

The tiramisu was beautifully presented, although the glass didn’t stand up to gluttonous husband’s energetic scraping of the chocolate from its sides. The biscotti, mascarpone and chocolate layers were topped by a mocha ‘fairy floss’ (which even Greedy Girl pronounced as delicious, despite not being a fan of coffee-flavoured desserts) and a nutty chocolate tuile.

Greedy Girl wishes she’d been able to get a ‘before’ shot of the zabaglione (pictured at the top of this blog). Lurking under this delectable froth of egg yolks, sugar and Marsala was a delightful macedonia (fruit salad in Italian). A variety of berries and melon was encased in a delightful clear jelly, topped with berry coulis and some candied pistachios. OMG. It was absolutely delicious. The zabaglione is brought separately to the table in a copper pot, still being whisked, to make it as light and fluffy as a feather. Did I mention it was absolutely delicious?

Extremely well-fed, we trundled out of Scusami having spent almost three hours having a comfortable lunch. The savoury courses weren’t as good as the sweets but they were certainly quite acceptable.

The lunch service was reasonably quiet and it’s probably a little symptomatic of there being much more competition around the Southgate precinct. While this was an absolute bargain as a coupon deal, the full prices are not inexpensive. It makes Greedy Girl wonder whether restaurants are potentially damaging their brand by offering such deals.

We opted not to have tea or coffee but, as we departed, Greedy Girl was reminded of her previous evening with Bev the cook. She finished her meal that evening with a cup of coffee. At some point, the teaspoon got knocked on the floor. We didn’t notice. When our waiter approached to clear the table, he turned abruptly to Bev the Cook and demanded: ‘What did you do with the teaspoon?’. We were both aghast but laughed it off and a quick search revealed its location. Once he’d departed (without another murmur) Bev the Cook looked alarmed, feeling she’d just been accused of petty theft. She was so disturbed, she rang the restaurant the next day to express her dismay. The waiter concerned may have gone on to great things but probably hospitality shouldn’t have been on his list of preferred careers.

The Southgate precinct opened in 1992 and Scusami has been there for at least 15 years. It’s a decent spot for a good Italian meal but it’s got a lot of rivals jostling for the hospitality dollar.

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