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Greedy Girl is a lover of deals although she has to say, some offers she’s taken up definitely fall under the heading of False Economy – food she’d have preferred not to eat at any price. It was with high hopes however, she stumped up for a coupon at Solarino, in the city’s Howey Place arcade.

This had been a fairly regular venue for a working lunch with friends over the years – a quick pasta or salad had gone down a treat. Our coupon entitled us to an antipasto platter, a choice of mains each, a dessert to share and a glass of something to wash it all down – all for $49. Sold.

And so we sallied forth, on our final night in Melbourne before our Great Russian Adventure. Yes folks, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband are on their way to Moscow, to discover if there’s more to the cuisine than borscht and vodka. But I digress …

Greedy Girl needed to be coaxed out of her sick bed, but appropriately rugged up against Melbourne’s chill, we braved the tram ride into the city and took two seats near the kitchen pass, contemplating a major bout of carbohydrate loading.

Solarino is a long, narrow restaurant, with al fresco seating that’s quite a pleasant city spot on a warm day. We were happy to be inside in a toasty warm room. Our very friendly waitress explained the deal. Unlike some coupons we’ve taken up where there’s absolutely no flexibility, she said we could opt for any of the larger main courses if we cared to pay a small supplement. We liked the sound of a pasta and a risotto dish, so that wasn’t necessary and we were then invited to select drinks. Gluttonous husband was informed he could opt for a beer instead of the advertised glass of wine and he happily plumped for a White Rabbit white ale from Healesville. Greedy Girl chose the 2012 Tyrrell’s Lost Block Shiraz from Heathcote – a very robust red. Sorted.

Our first dish was the platter (featured at the top of this post). It was antipasto beyond the mundane, featuring some tasty salami, an artichoke stuffed with goats cheese, battens of crispy bread, delicious olives, fried sardines, polenta and onion cake, a meat pastry and fried gnocchi, topped with a cheesy slick. It all went down a treat, except perhaps for the gnocchi which proved to be a bit too salty. It was an incredibly substantial platter and Greedy Girl (having also helped herself to some focaccia) was already feeling full. A really good start.

Next up, gluttonous husband opted for risotto with prawns, calamari, tomato, dill and spring onions. The risotto had been cooked with a seafood stock, increasing the depth of flavour. The texture of the rice was slightly overdone although the prawns were cooked perfectly.

Where to eat Melbourne: Solarino

Prawn risotto

Greedy Girl took rigatoni with aurora-style pork bolognese and ricotta. Not entirely sure what ‘aurora-style’ constitutes, this was nonetheless an attractive plate of food. The pasta was cooked well and the bolognese was an excellent flavour and texture. The addition of ricotta was excellent – mixed in with the dish it gave more moisture and a silkiness to the sauce. Not a bad dish at all.

Where to eat Melbourne: Solarino

Rigatoni with pork bolognese and ricotta

Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband don’t eat a lot of pasta or rice at home and, unsurprisingly, neither of us could finish the servings, which are enormous. The pasta definitely had more going for it than the risotto, which could have benefitted from some lemon juice or the addition of something green.

Draining the last of our drinks, our final dish was a dessert plate featuring creme brulee and tiramisu. Again, neither of us are particularly fond of creme brulee, but the sugar top cracked into satisfying shards and there was a nice vanilla flavour to the custard. The tiramisu was perfectly edible, with a real coffee hit. There was also a dish of a decent vanilla ice cream. Gluttonous husband pronounced himself rather full but that didn’t stop him from mopping up every last smear of the tiramisu.

Where to eat Melbourne: Solarino

Dessert platter

Done. It was a power of food, executed reasonably well. For the price point, it was a total bargain.

Craving a fix of Italian food, there are worse places you could choose in Melbourne. Solarino’s in  a great spot, just at the back of the David Jones store in the Bourke Street mall and in the heart of the shopping district. While we didn’t avail ourselves of coffee after dinner, we’ve had enough there over the years to vouch that it’s more than reasonable.


7 Howey Place, Melbourne
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