Cicciolina is a veteran, but she's still delivering the goods. No, we're not talking about the Hungarian-Italian porn star and politician — we're referring to the 22-year-old Italian restaurant on Acland Street.
Having been open for so long, Ciccolina is some what of a fixture on the St Kilda street. It must be something about the balmy European vibe that keeps customers crawling back. The food is simple yet innovative, and follows the Italian culinary philosophy: focus on a few key, high quality ingredients.
Cicciolina's waitstaff are their own comedy show, oozing with wit and quirkiness. As you waltz in, they instantly greet you with a smile, sometimes a wink and often a joke. Regardless of where you are seated, clusters of artworks mounted on whitewashed brick walls peer over your shoulder, as if they're intrigued by what you are going to order. Near the entrance, a 3x3 chalkboard holds the specials.
Kick things off with a shucked oyster dressed in a shallot and chardonnay vinaigrette ($4). It's virtually impossible to choose wrong if you go down the pasta path — especially if that choice is the smoked salmon linguini with braised leek ($30.50). Usually there's ragu pasta dish on special. If so, order it. Immediately.
Leaving before having dessert? Good one — now, sit back down. Ordering the créme brûlée with blood plum compote ($16.50) will be one of the wisest food decisions you ever make.
Cicciolina has a 150 bottle wine list, with over 20 options available by the glass. The restaurant houses everything from an Ottelia Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon ($13 glass, $32 bottle) to a Clic Pinot Grigio from Friuli-Venezia, Italy ($12 glass, $30 bottle). If you're not in a grape mood, perhaps try a Must-Have Martini: chilli-infused vodka with ginger liqueur, Liquor 43, apple juice and mint. All martinis and cocktails stand at $18.50.
During dinnertime, it can be tricky getting a table — and the restaurant doesn't take bookings. If you want something more low key, slide into the restaurant's back bar. On Monday nights, you can score a beer and bolognaise for $20.
Cicciolina is a people-pleaser. Whether you take a friend, your mum, or a date, they'll all walk out happy.