With what is Melbourne’s answer to New York’s Little Italy, Pretty Boy Italian Steakhouse has officially unveiled its latest décor pieces and iconic Italian menu that aims to inspire traditional flavours of Italy.
Located on Little Londsdale Street in Melbourne’s CBD, Pretty Boy is on a quest to capture the essence of traditional Italian-meets-American flare, with new interiors through the appointment of Singapore based group Fdat, as well as commissioning Northcote-based artist Ella Baudinet to develop delicately hand-painted silhouettes based on the story of Pretty Boy and the era the venue takes inspiration from.
We took a trip to Pretty Boy Italian Steakhouse to see what all the fuss was about and left without disappointment.
Here’s how it stacks up amid Melbourne’s ever-growing world-class food and hospitality scene…
There’s enough style at Pretty Boy to keep everybody happy. Indeed, pretty is an apt descriptor. The subdued wash of stylish greys and blacks throughout the interior of the restaurant is punctuated with exaggerated touches of green; a very welcome feature that lends to the restaurant’s cool and moody inner-city dimensions.
The marblesque black of the tabletops picks up and softens the warm and diffuse pendant lighting, which in turn highlights the textured cobalt green walls. This is important for two reasons: this modern feel juxtaposes against the Little Lonsdale street view of raw brick and building, which generates a feeling of intimacy from within. Further, it creates an airy atmosphere that feels at once in the city yet out of it: a well-demarcated sense of space that escapes the pace of city life, obligatory for those on a working holiday or hoping to unwind.
The charm of Pretty Boy is that despite its spaciousness, its large capacity, and the fact that this is a restaurant located in a hotel, the service felt intimate and calm at all times, with enough personalised charisma to never feel intrusive nor occluded by this fact.
The food echoed the restaurant’s dimensions – each dish looked and tasted considered, well constructed, and simply put, tasty in a way that no other cuisine but Italian can seemingly achieve. Therefore, Pretty Boy stands on its own as a modern Italian restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but serious enough to serve food that has a sense of creativity and consideration.
Executive Chef Michael Smith (ex-Tonka and Mamasita), brings delectable flavours to excite the palates of Melbournians, introducing a fresh menu to which continues to utilise the finest local produce, and artesian home-made pasta-making techniques.
“We have decided to take advantage of all the sensational seasonal produce and Italian cured meat
that are currently available in the region for our new menu. Fruit and vegetables such as figs, heirloom carrots, Brussel sprouts and Jerusalem artichokes are all in their prime at the moment,” says Michael Smith.
“In particular, we are working with a supplier that provides us with the much sought-after Kobe Scotch
Fillet. We are only allocated certain amounts per week due to the high demand for it.”
Located in the heart of the restaurant is indeed the heart of the restaurant – a kitchen station that adds a degree of theatre as the chef places steaks on the grill, and adds the finishing garnishes to the plates going out to the patrons. For those dining alone, it’s the perfect place to sit down, imbibe a drink of your choosing and sink some crispy ricotta-filled zucchini flowers, fried gently to give it an overall lightness of being, then accentuated with the tangy sweet and sour flavour of vino cotto.
And then there’s the Hiramasa Kingfish Crudo, spiked with the necessary acidic contrast of pomelo and then dotted with the bright briny flavour of salmon roe. Texture comes by way of fried Jerusalem artichoke crisps, which brings the seafood flavours back to shore with its nutty earthy flavour. What grabbed my attention were the winter vegetables laced in a puttanesca sauce – which cooked down a tomato sauce, transforming it into something with deep caramelised flavours with salty hits of black olives and capers, and then served on a melange of root vegetables.
For something more substantial, a handful of handmade pasta dishes are a given at Pretty Boy, such as a pappardelle served with a wagyu beef ragu, and the classic spaghetti and meatballs, as are your staple proteins. But what catches the eye – and the stomach – is the chef’s top cut of steak: a 350gm scotch fillet of Kobe beef that is prized for its well-marbled texture and its tenderness. I opted for medium-rare, a bit of horseradish cream on the side, and received a respectfully cooked marvel, served with a celeriac and caper salad, and topped with pangritata – or in layperson’s terms – crispy fried breadcrumbs. The steak was indeed a melting pleasure to consume; truly a portion of luxury on the plate.
Dessert was indeed the highlight, and a tiramisu fiend like myself found comfort in the well-stratified layers of sponge fingers soaked in St. Ali coffee, cream spiked with Tia Maria coffee liqueur, velvety mascarpone, and grated baci chocolate – with a crunch factor imparted by a malt layer somewhere within. But the elegance award goes out to the vanilla panna cotta, which presents a drama of textures.
Pretty Boy is the ideal hangout that straddles the line between traditionally inspired cucina povera food and more innovative and modern Italian styles, with a stylish atmosphere and considered service. It is a welcome addition to the Melbourne CBD and is tucked away for you to find it.
Pretty Boy Italian Steakhouse is open for dinner from 6:00pm to 9:30pm, 7 days. To book a table, head to the website here
Pretty Boy Italian Steakhouse
Level 1, 399 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000