Now open: Di Stasio in the CBD

Photo: Spaghettone la gricia sbagliato, Ronnie Di Stasio, the dining room at Di Stasio Citta

Ronnie Di Stasio’s long-awaited city venue, Di Stasio Città, has finally opened its doors. The legendary St Kilda restaurateur’s foray into the CBD brings together his three loves: hospitality, art and architecture. Di Stasio has form in creating unique, singular dining experiences and Cittá delivers in spades. Here he explains the motivation and inspirations behind his new Spring Street digs.

I opened Cafe Di Stasio in St Kilda because I wanted to be in business. I didn’t want to be an employee anymore; I wanted to be my own boss. But with Città, it’s not business, it’s personal. I wanted it to be an amalgamation of all the things that I love: Italianality, art, architecture and food. It’s like a personal journey where I can include my love of Venice and Milan with my love of Melbourne.

I like to think of it as a home gallery where the caterers came in for the opening and forgot to leave. You can look at art and you can also eat a sandwich, drink a cocktail.

Città’s menu is about old favourites, accessibility and choice. It’s not about breaking new ground. It’s about freedom and not being dictated to so you can come in and eat suckling pig at 11 in the morning or roast duck in the middle of the afternoon. [Ed: The Città menu strongly resembles that of Cafe Di Stasio, with a wide selection of handmade pastas, plus the saltimbocca, carpaccio with rocket and Merenda sandwich from Bar di Stasio crossing town.]

The art at Città is there because of the relationships I have with the artists. Those personal relationships are very important to me. There are two video works from Shaun Gladwell and one from Reko Rennie, the same work he took to Venice. There will also be an installation from Reko, a Kamilaroi man who lives and works in Victoria.

The design of Città is tied up with memories and ideas I’ve had in my head for 30 years. The red dining chairs are a version of the chairs in the original Society restaurant that I loved. And the terrazzo floor, which was mixed, poured and polished on-site, is in tribute to the espresso bars in Thornbury where my father would go to drink coffee and talk with his friends.

People have had a go at me for not putting any signage out the front of the restaurant but that’s a personal, deliberate decision.

When I was six, my mother had to work in a factory and was working when school finished so I had to walk home from school by myself. I couldn’t read the numbers or the street signs and I got lost at first. But then I turned the walk into an adventure and I would find my way home by recognising and remembering all the buildings and houses along the way. I wanted Città to have that sense of adventure and recognition too.

Città is not replacing St Kilda; it’s just expanding on what we do. St Kilda is too personal to us to sell and we still love St Kilda. It made the journey into the city possible.

Di Stasio Città, 45 Spring St, Melbourne, (03) 9639 7412, distasio.com.au. Lunch 7 days, 11:30am-3:00pm; dinner 7 days, 6:00pm-11:00pm.

Words Ronnie Di Stasio

Interview Michael Harden