Cicciolona is one of those restaurants you keep coming back to. Even when you have not visited for years you still feel the same sense of welcome, comfort and warmth. It feels like you were there yesterday and that you have arrived back home once again. The food is still as good, if not better, the staff still smiling at you like you are a long lost friend and the atmosphere as if you were in a bustling restaurant in Italy.
Operating since 1993 and with the same chefs in the kitchen, this restaurant and its staff show true commitment and passion towards their food and their customers (not always the case in the fickle food business of Melbourne).
At the back of the restaurant there is a cosy, dark wooded bar, called the Back Bar (what else) with booth seating as well as bar stools. As my companion remarked, "This is the sort of bar I would like to run". It is the perfect place for a couple of drinks while waiting for your table, an inviting place for a nightcap or just a bar to meet up for a date with friends. The interior of the restaurant is modern yet with an old-world ambience accentuated by the paintings lining the walls and the leather-covered benches. It is a small, intimate restaurant but couples and groups seem to co-exist perfectly well together and other people's conversations are never intrusive.
The food is modern Italian with some interesting touches such as pork belly served with slices of blood sausage, and angel hair pasta with garfish, fennel and lemon. Both were delicious. There are blackboard specials and an excellent wine list covering Australian and European wines suited to the cuisine. You can check out the menu,specials and wine selection here. Specials change frequently.
There are now a few tables outside and with the recent pedestrian transformation of Acland Street, this is a perfect place to observe the life of this iconic St.Kilda street. The restaurant does not take bookings but with the Back Bar the time waiting goes very quickly and the staff are very good at estimating how long you will need to wait. Bar food such as warm olives, antipasto and cheese platters will keep those hunger pangs away until you are seated in the restaurant.