Published on 11 April 2021
Matthew Butcher grew up helping his dad Ronnie in their family takeaway, sparking his passion for creating tasty, hearty food that brings people together. He has since worked alongside the likes of Gordan Ramsay and Shannon Bennett, and now has a place to call his own in the Melbourne CBD, named for dad. "I'd like it to be a venue that people stumble upon and end up staying for hours, solving the world’s problems with mates over a few drinks and share plates," Butcher says.
Ronnie’s menu combines cicchetti, Italy’s small plates, with larger dishes to attract groups of people and encourage sharing, while Samantha Eades' design for the room is simple and unfussy, with neutral tones in keeping with the heritage vibe of the building.
"This happy marriage between a casual setting and sophisticated food means you can take your other half for a classy weekend date as readily as you can drop in after work for a beer and bowl of pasta with your mates."
Which of the dishes on the menu best captures the vibe at Ronnie’s?
The cacio e pepe waffles. The idea came from my love of New York and Italian food. Whenever I’ve travelled to New York, I’ve always wanted to eat either waffles or cacio e pepe pasta. And now that I’ve got a restaurant of my own, I’ve combined the two. The waffle part is made with fermented potato, which we then top with cheese and cracked black pepper. This is our hero dish, and also reminds me of my childhood of eating mash potato, as I’m sure it will for many of you too. It’s not for the faint-hearted but certainly a must-try.
How about a drink?
We can our own cocktails, so that’s a great place to start – an Amaretto Sour or Negronnie. This idea came from growing up in a takeaway shop in this small country town. We sold groceries as well, and as a kid, I used to grab cans of soft drink and tins of condensed milk and go out the back and drink them. This is where the Ronnie’s concept came from – the simple life of drinks in cans, beers in handle pots. We’ve also got a range of low-alcohol wines, no-alcohol beers and no-booze cocktails if that’s your vibe.
What if I’m here for a good time not a long time?
I’d definitely go for the vitello tonnato jaffle to start. For a main course, you can’t go wrong with the swimmer crab rigatoni with fermented chilli butter and salmon roe served with a classic Aperol Spritz.
Got anything light and fresh?
Try a plate of split prawns with red pesto and capers, or shavings of zucchini with grape and mint, or our butter lettuce with your choice of 18- or 30-year-old aged balsamico.
I like tasty food but I don’t eat animals.
Our cicchetti (think of them as Italy’s tapas) are perfect for all vegetarian and vegan eaters. There’s a spelt-flour sourdough focaccia – I think we’re the only restaurant in Melbourne making sourdough focaccia – that we serve with marinated zucchini, grilled bullhorn peppers, smoked leek and pesto and a stuffed polenta fritter. For a main course, try our 36-hour braised cauliflower in arrabiata with a side of radicchio, fennel and panzanella. All vegetarian and vegan!
Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
I’d recommend something epic from our grill, like the wagyu rump cap or our Southern Ranges scotch fillet with all the sides – green beans with Champagne sauce and caviar, soft polenta and parmesan, perhaps, and the fries and rosemary.
What about to close?
Our limoncello baba – it’s god’s gift to have after a good meal: a yeast-risen cake soaked in limoncello. For those with a sweeter tooth, check out the chocolate torte.
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