Mr Ottorino, where The Commoner used to be on Johnston St, is a new Sicilian restaurant with a long menu and an amazing wine list. There are many smallish plates to share and this makes ordering difficult. You start with an amuse bouche of small arancini, and it was good to be told that because we were about to order the big arancini on the menu.
Below: eggplant fritters; preserved, raw and smoked tuna with fennel and grapefruit; oak smoked trout with coffee, fregola and tomato broth; cuttlefish with polenta and kale; roast potatoes; cannoli; and caramelised fig and mascarpone tart. We were in the mood for fish! The smoked tuna was spectacular.
I loved the Hauner Salina bianco (a blend of catarratto and inzolia) from Salina (one of the Aeolian Islands off the north-eastern coast of Sicily). I once stood on the beach at Gioiosa Marea in Sicily and looked at Salina in the misty horizon, but I digress. The wine from the region is excellent.
The front dining room is as loud and cosy as it was previously, though it feels different as you now enter from the side hallway rather than the old front door, which allows for an additional table in the front room.
Mr Ottorino is a great addition to Fitzroy. I’m sure I’ll return as I really enjoyed the food and it made me nostalgic for youthful travels. Of the dishes I loved the cuttlefish, while my companion was less certain about the ink sauce and preferred the trout in tomato broth.
I was also interested in visiting for a different reason. A few years back two froyo places opened about the same time almost opposite each other on Brunswick St. Neither lasted long. A couple of years ago two craft beer bars opened next door to each other on Smith St. Two Row, a small cosy space, seems to be doing well while Lot 347, a big soulless barn, has failed.
Now Johnston St has two Sicilian Italian restaurants only a few blocks from each other. The other is Ibla Cucina Italiana, which I will review next. I’m curious about why this duality seems to keep happening, and whether both restaurants can survive.