Situated up the top end of Croydon's Main Street in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Raffaele's is packed most nights with locals who appreciate great pizza and pasta.
The restaurant is open 6 nights a week, Tuesday - Sunday from 6.00pm, and is fully licensed, though you can BYO wine and champagne if you wish. Bookings are preferred (and recommended). Takeaway is also available.
Ensuring that we booked well in advance, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we had inadvertently arrived for Treat Yourself Tuesday. Make sure you check out the specials on the website before you go as I couldn't see a reference to it anywhere in the restaurant itself.
For us, Treat Yourself Tuesday meant a three course meal for just $25 ($15 for small pizza, risotto or pasta plus beer, wine or soft drink and $10 coffee and cake).
The menu is extensive and makes a change from the standard Italian offering. You'll need some time to browse through the detailed descriptions of all the entrees, pasta, pizza, risotto, mains (from steak to schnitzel and all types of meat in between) and sides. If you feel you need a head start download the menu and wine list from their website before you visit.
For entree we went straight for the calamari though there are plenty of other options including garlic pizza, scallops, prawns, soup of the day and entree sized pasta and risotto.
Chilli calamari: zingy and more-ish
You'll find your usual pizzas such as Aussie, Capricciosa and Mexicana but why not be adventurous and check out the Diavola (featuring hot salami and chilli) or the Del Conuto (hot salami, roasted peppers).
I went with the Mexicana and was not disappointed.
The pasta menu itself is mouthwatering and if you can't decide between steak or pasta just order the Linguini con Filetto di Manzo: "tender eye fillet strips sautéed with extra virgin olive oil, red onion, semidried tomatoes, coriander, lime juice and sweet chilli, tossed with thin pasta ribbons."
My dining partner went for the suspiciously named Fettucine Lolita (complete with baby spinach) and pronounced it delicious.
Fettucine Lolita: Let your imagination run away
After having an in-depth conversation about how we were both steering away from eating dessert in general and we couldn't possibly fit in another bite anyway, one look at the dessert specials board had me somehow blurting out "cheesecake and cappuccino please" to an obliging waitress.
Berry Swirl Cheesecake: How could I not?
The chefs are able to accommodate most dietary requirements and food allergies, including vegetarian and gluten-free. Just ask for whatever adaptations you require.
Kids are very welcome at this family owned and run business. There is a dedicated $12.00 Kids Menu for under 14s. Any pasta can also be served in a pint-sized portion. Add on a drink and dessert for $3.00.
Check out the mini-exhibition in the foyer of the restaurant with dozens of colourful pictures created by past child patrons.
A relaxed and friendly atmosphere, our only concern was that the service was a little too fast. However, our request to take our time before ordering coffee was granted happily and we felt comfortable staying on after we finished our food to have a chat and enjoy the evening.
Private functions are also catered for and menus and pricing can be arranged to suit the function.