I am about to commit a mortal foodie sin. I am going to give away the location of a hidden neighbourhood gem. That's right, you heard me. I am going to let you in on my local go to "date night" spot. I do this because I consider it my esteemed duty to share with you only the best places to eat.
This restaurant is unexpected perfection. As you step inside the unassuming Bay St shop front you are transported to a memory of a dark, moody, romantic dinner you had somewhere in Italy. Once you sit down you will totally forget that you are actually in Port Melbourne. Despite being a cosy space you feel in no way cramped and the acoustics are such that you do not hear every word the couple at the next table is sweetly saying to each other over the twinkling candlelight. Gorgeous artwork adorns the walls and adds to the atmosphere.
Every dish on the menu is mouth wateringly appealing making decisions extremely difficult. I understand this is a first world problem. The complimentary, fresh out of the oven house made sour dough with basil infused butter and black volcanic salt gives you a great insight of the quality to come.
Any good date though is likely to first start with an aperitif and the staff here are adept at whipping up a classic cocktail or pouring you something from the well chosen wine list if you prefer. My date is the type of guy who likes to eat dessert first and as such has been known to kick off proceedings with a Toblerone cocktail. Whilst I am the type of person who looks at dessert first I definitely enjoy eating it last and so I stick with a drink that I fell in love with in a cicchetti bar in Venice; the Aperol spritz.
Whilst the next advice will mean you roll out of the restaurant I do humbly suggest that you order entrée, main and dessert, in particular the fig bruschetta or perhaps the duck arancini for starters. For main course I highly recommend the pan fried potato gnocchi with roasted pumpkin and walnuts or the Cone Bay Barramundi atop pea veloute and some pan fried gnocchi. You may have guessed I am quite partial to these pillowy potato dumplings of goodness. Red meat eaters will love the slow roasted lamb shoulder with white bean puree and artichoke chips.
Now to serious business…dessert. The caramel plate features crème caramel, peanut butter caramel ice cream and honeycomb. Understandably it is famous amongst in the know locals and can be made gluten free. Nonna’s tiramisu is a sumptuous delight in your mouth and could easily feed 2, although I did get through mine on my own except for the solitary bite I allowed my date. I am a professional eater after all. The rhubarb, blackberry and meringue dessert is perfect for a lighter finish to the meal.
Service at Ciao Cielo is confident, experienced, knowledgeable, discreet and well paced. Bookings can be made online for lunch and dinner. The restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays however does open for special occasions such as Mother’s Day, hint, hint. A truly memorable meal awaits in your own slice of Italy hidden in plain sight on Bay St.
Ciao Cielo - 171 Bay St, Port Melbourne