>I’ve wanted to eat at this restaurant almost since we arrived here. Another Melbourne institution, this Italian restaurant doesn’t take bookings so you have to choose your moment to dine here. I have crashed a work dinner of Orlando’s here once, but still didn’t feel that I had experienced the full Cicciolina’s thing. So back we went on a chilly Friday night after a hard day’s work trawling the bookstores of Melbourne.

We arrived before seven-thirty and put our names down for a table for three. We were told there was a two hour wait. Amazingly we quickly procured a booth in the back bar and settled down with two glasses of wine, happy to be sitting comfortably after our marathon day out.

With two hours to wait, we scanned the blackboard and ordered an antipasto platter to keep us entertained. It was a pretty good spread: salami and prosciutto, goat’s cheese, grilled mussels, a couple of dips, marinated mushrooms, black olives, sourdough bread.

In the end, we had barely polished off the last morsels when our waiter came and called us into the main restaurant.

The place was buzzing, the atmosphere helps along by the fact that the tables are very close together. I ordered a raviolo stuffed with ox tail to start. Sitting on a bed of spinach, the single stuffed square of pasta looked simple and small, but it was filling. And divine.

For main course, Orlando ordered a fillet steak and Mena a lamb roast. Both looked and smelled great, and they were happy with their choices. Mena was still talking about hers the next day. I chose pasta again: linguine with a spicy ragu which was much more complex than a matriciana sauce, but I couldn’t tell you what was in it. I savoured every mouthful and washed it down with a few glasses of Pizzini sangiovese.

All in all, the experience was fantastic. Even the wait for a table doesn’t have to be too bad if you are lucky to get a seat in the back bar.

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