Sensational! Benny and I had been invited to Tutto Bene to sample its new breakfast menu and we were totally blown away by some amazing food. Indeed “tutto bene” is Italian for “everything’s good” – a totally accurate description of our experience.
We have dined at Tutto Bene on several occasions – the restaurant has been at Southgate Melbourne for more than ten years – and we have very fond memories, particularly of its risotto. Recently reopened after extensive renovations, Tutto Bene (reviewed by Obelix back in 2014) now offers breakfast as well as lunch and dinner.
Head chef Nathan Scarfo is a second generation Italian-Australian who is passionate about fresh seasonal ingredients and superb Italian produce. So what do Italians have for breakfast? According to Nathan, they are generally on the go, so they grab a coffee plus a little something that is fast to prepare and fast to eat. Maybe savoury, maybe sweet. In Italy the main emphasis is on lunch and dinner, so breakfast is generally a light affair.
However just because speed is of the essence does not mean that quality is compromised.
As much as possible is made in-house by Nathan and his team – they even bake their own sourdough rye bread, which we saw proving before the bake for the lunchtime service.
Our order encompassed rather more than the typical Italian breakfast, but we wanted to sample a good range of the menu offerings – making sure that we included Nathan’s special recommendations.
While we waited for our food – which came very quickly – Benny sipped on a cappuccino (a Sensory Lab blend) while I had a lemongrass tea (not very Italian, but a good strategy to aid digestion).
First to arrive was the bruschetta – Adelaide tomatoes, fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella on toasted house-baked sourdough rye. Great bread, flavourful tomatoes and the buffalo mozzarella was sublime.
Next: cornetti ripieni, or Italian croissant, filled with funghi misti and stracchiatella (a soft buffalo milk cheese). The mushrooms were Swiss browns, with some porcini – the latter are not usually part of the mix, but Nathan was feeling generous. This was magnificent – I would very happily eat one of these for my breakfast every morning. The cornetti was beautifully flaky, and the filling was a gorgeous mix of earthy mushrooms and a light but luscious creamy cheese.
Both the buffalo cheeses come from a Melbourne cheesemaker – Benny and I are already planning our expedition to the factory store. They were truly outstanding.
Then, Tutto Bene’s special egg dish, “Yo Adrian” – scrambled eggs, green and yellow beans, and chives with San Daniele prosciutto. Nathan’s secret technique – with no added cream, milk, butter or oil, just the eggs – gives an amazingly light and fluffy result in less than three minutes. The only seasoning needed is from the delicious prosciutto, which comes from the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in the far northeastern part of Italy and is cured with no additives or preservatives other than salt. Brilliant.
And to finish off, canoli filled with Tutto Bene’s vanilla bean gelato, sprinkled with bright green pistachios and served with amarena cherries and a splash of cherry syrup. Amarena cherries are a bitter Italian variety that are preserved in syrup (think maraschino, but these are totally natural cherries and much, much nicer). The canoli was fresh, the gelato also good (obviously we will need to return for a gelato review), but the addition of the cherries and the syrup lifted the sweet treat to something quite special.
Breakfast is served on the terrace, al fresco style, where you can look out over the passing boat traffic on the Yarra River. Pops of colour from various items such as the chunky glassware and the coffee cups added a cheery atmosphere to the open space. There is also a more cosy dining area with a huge circular table next to Tutto Bene’s gelato counter. Service was friendly and efficient. Osvaldo, the manager, took excellent care of us and was happy to answer all our questions.