The lofty space once home to Port Melbourne's courthouse has been given a healthy dose of Italian flavour — and a $1.5 million makeover — as fine diner Ciao Cielo and casual sister bar and eatery Ciao Cucina move in.
The modern Italian restaurant, which used to reside down Bay Street in a smaller location, moved into the historic 1860s building in late May. Here, both the warm, contemporary design and the generous menu offer a modern spin on Italian tradition. Atelier Wagner Architects' David Wagner worked closely with Ciao Cielo owner Kate Dickins to take the historic building into its next phase of life, the soaring ceilings and heritage features now offset by New York-style booth seating, striking marble bars and cosy fireplaces.
Take the fine dining route and you'll discover a menu of modern classics, like the king prawn risotto with bisque and marjoram gremolata, a Sardinian-style goat leg with polenta, and the Tuscan-inspired, 1kg grass fed 'bistecca a la Fiorentina', made for sharing. They're backed by plenty of old favourites, with the kitchen's flair for house-made pasta shining through in dishes like the squid ink linguini and a bolognese ragu with tagliatelle.
Meanwhile, Ciao Cucina is dishing up a more casual affair within a 150-seat Amalfi-inspired marquee covered in fairy lights, which is next to the main dining room. It's your go-to for more handmade pasta, traditional woodfired pizzas and a lineup of signature spritzes.