Covid-19 comfort food – Gradi G, Melbourne
Seeking some Covid-19 comfort food, Italian delights are a clear choice. Greedy Girl caught up with long-time friends in Melbourne’s Crown complex on the banks of the Yarra River for some upscale pizza and pasta at Gradi G.
Like most of the restaurants in this complex, Gradi G occupies a big area on the ground floor, with an outdoor area facing the river. It’s a prized spot in the summer; under one of the overpass bridges, it stays cool.
But given this is winter, we opted to stay inside. As Greedy Girl writes, restaurants and cafes in Melbourne Australia can open for a maximum of 2o guests, depending on their floor size. No such issues for Gradi where most of the tables had signs saying they weren’t in use.
As of Monday June 22, however, that number increases to 50 patrons. No doubt there’s a chorus of ‘bring it on’ reverberating around the hospitality industry.
We settled in with a fine bottle of Louis Roederer champagne to celebrate mates catching up after lockdown. It was almost challenge to find time to eat and drink such was the rapid conversation.
But we managed … Having downloaded the menu app, we ordered one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, a margherita pizza, to accompany the first sips of champagne.
The pizza had a perfectly thin, crispy base and the tomato, mozzarella and basil were all incredibly tasty. One of the best pizzas Greedy Girl has had.
Next up, we ordered three pastas to share, including another signature dish from chef Johnny Di Francesco – the carbonara.
This is a lush dish. The chef himself was at an outside table while we were having lunch and stopped by to chat. Telling us that, unlike most Italian restaurants, the pastas are cooked ‘a la minute’.
The spaghetti was definitely al dente; it had a satisfying slight resistance to the bite and the sauce was slightly smoky. Di Francesco says a lot of diners think that quality comes from the pork but it’s actually cold-smoked egg, produced by Victoria’s Smoked Egg Company.
Generally Greedy Girl isn’t fond of smoked foods but this is quite exquisite. If you’re a carbonara fan, put it on your list when visiting Melbourne.
Our second pasta is a penne with pork ragu – an intensely hearty dish, perfect for a cold day.
The flavours meld brilliantly and the meat is incredibly soft. Another delish plate of food.
And our final pasta is granchio – spaghetti with crab, chilli, garlic and a rich bisque sauce.
The tomatoes and zucchini add to the freshness of this dish. There’s a satisfying richness from the bisque and just enough heat from the chilli. A lovely foil for the heavier pastas.
And we were done. Off we went in search for a place in the sun to continue sipping and chatting.
Now, it has to be said, this is not a ‘cheap and cheerful’ Italian restaurant. But what you do get here is the very best ingredients, prepared with incredible finesse.
The wait staff were all delighted to be back as was the chef himself. It’s been a tough time for hospitality, not the least for Di Francesco, who has restaurants across Melbourne and also in the US and the Middle East.
We were certainly happy to be back and, hopefully, the easing of Covid-19 restrictions will make businesses and jobs recover to something approaching viability very soon.
8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne