Saturday, February 04, 2006

Roberto's - Richmond - Italian

Venue - Roberto's
Cuisine - Italian
Address - 428 Bridge Road, Richmond
Tel : 9428 3845
Hours : Open Mon-Sun 4-Late And they do take away.
Price: around $25 for shared Pizza and Main Pasta
Just cruise on down if you want to go. They are most accommodating.

Back when I was a troubled teenager giving my parents grief by forming punk bands, sneaking into nightclubs and growing my hair into dreadlocks, I was also a vegetarian. In order to make up for some of the grey hairs I caused my parents, I was often called in to work for them. Luckily for me they weren't butchers, and there was even a brief shining moment in my father's not always illustrious career when he was employed as a food critic.
Being the proud carnivorous Kiwi man that he is, and never one to miss an opportunity involving free steak and lamb's brains, my father needed someone unafraid to order the vegetarian dishes, in order to be able to give his vegetarian readers the balanced reviewing they had become so used to by the early '90s.
So I got to be his 'Vegetarian Daughter'. My father's name for me up in shining lights! The naive opinions of 'Vegetarian Daughter' were duly stolen and printed in the magazine or newspaper shortly thereafter.
So it is with much joy and delight that I now get to write my own words, for printing on our own esteemed blog, and therefore I christen this, my first review, with a review of a vegetarian meal.
The Italians occasionally understand the need for an all vegetarian meal, and this meal at Roberto's did not disappoint. The owner is the son of another Richmond local, a bottle shop owner whose small business could not compete when Dan Murphy's moved in. Being raised in Richmond, he felt the need to create a restaurant of his own in his home suburb. And you can tell. There is none of the glitz and glamour of the newcomers to the inner-city. Roberto's is smart but thoroughly unpretentious, much like my companions for the evening. It's like one of those friends who gives you a much needed kick back down to earth when your head starts to swell, and is definitely about content over style.
Not to say that it's not stylish. Far from it. The decor is simple and smart, and there are none of the unfortunately over-popular ugly, garish paintings (always done by unknown 'well-known local artists') that too many restaurants stick on their walls in an attempt to appear cultured. If you don't know art, and you can't afford to hire someone who does, it's better to have plain white walls.
The atmosphere is light and friendly, the service fairly attentive (although they could have been a bit more attentive towards our wine bottles) and polite, and, apart from a slamming door that made the whole restaurant stop and stare at me on my return from the toilet, with the added bonus of my table pronouncing me a 'drama queen' (what did I say about the kick back down to earth?), the night was easy and relaxed.
We started with a pizza; simple, traditional Italian style, a margarita with fresh herbs. A thin crust, generously sized, it was delicious and went beautifully with our bottle of Marlborough Sauvingon Blanc (what else would one expect from a table of 5 New Zealanders?).
For the main course I had the Vegetable Fettucine (as a bonus you can choose your own kind of pasta, I adore restaurants where you can do this), in a Napoli Sauce, which was full of many different sorts of vegetables and fresh herbs in a proper tomato Napoli. Again, a generoso molto with regards to size. The pasta was aldante, the parmagiano plentiful, and no annoying waiter persons appeared brandishing giant pepper grinders and asking with the enthusiasm of an eager to please Irish Setter 'Cracked pepper? cracked pepper?'. (I'm sure I will be writing more about this annoying, conversation interrupting trend). This was a little bit of the real Italy, in dirty ol'Richmond.
My only criticism would be the lack of entree sized pastas. Not everyone can eat that much in one sitting, even food-obsessed bloggers. In particular one of our group, whose a wee little thing, and we wanted to taste both the pizza and the pasta as they are both well worth trying. In fact there wasn't much at all in way of entrees, and my wee friend had to suffice with an entree plate of calamari (which she nonetheless pronounced to be very good).
One of my other companions, who is a chef, had the stuffed pollo. This he eventually, (once he took a brief pause from eating), pronounced very tasty, in his esteemed opinion, and noted the unusual addition of sundried tomatoes in the stuffing.
It wasn't Italy 1, but it was a far cry from La Porchetta. If you're looking for decent pizza and pasta at a reasonable price, in a nice environment, check it out before everyone else discovers it.


Husky Nutmeg said...

Mmmmm. Thanks for this. I love Italian food. Great read as well. You must be a chip off the ol' block or as said in a foodie way, 'apple doesn't fall far from the tree'.

Chai said...

I will definitely try this one out. So dinner only, right?

Mel said...

Good Grief! I sit next to someone at work who mentioned this place to me last week - she loves it.
I guess now there is validation from everywhere. Nicely done.

LadyCracker said...

oh how I miss Richmond.

sublime-ation said...

Dinner only. How come I live in Carlton, but Richmond has all the best pizza places now? There's also that other amazing one on Bridge Road...all I've got is La Porchetta margaritas. It's so unfair. We used to be Italian dammit!

debs said...

Great review. The cracked pepper comment made me laugh, its so true.
How is it that everyone knows so much background history on their Restaurants?
I generally just look through my entertainment book (oh how i love this), find somewhere in the vicinity of where I dont mind driving to and that has the cusine that my palate so desires, and bobs your fathers brother!
Mmm, now i want Margarita pizza.

sublime-ation said...

I was dining with a local, who knew the family.
I asked my boyfriend, who works in hospitality about the cracked pepper by the way, and he said 'it's part of the service.' Hopsitality people think it's wonderful. I think it's a pain in the butt, it always interrupts the most juicy point in a conversation, and should be outlawed.

Chai said...

You know what would be a good variation on the theme? We could collectively go to a restaurant. And then do a group review. How's that? I've never seen that done anywhere!

sublime-ation said...

That's genius! Or a recipe for disaster.

MelbourneGirl said...

great review, sublime. i am impressed by everyone's efforts and shamed by my own slackness.

i don't really like pizza, but one place that does it for me is a taglio in fitzroy st st. kilda. pizza by the slice, thin bases, and good toppings. they also have pasta and they have gorgeous salads. and a spunky man is usually there. at least one. working that is.

Chai said...

subl, it'd be like the food reviewer's reenactment of Kurosawa's Rashomon.

sublime-ation said...

Sorry, sorry, but this is specifically addressed to Melbourne Girl. I went there once after St Kilda baths with cPet and the Pizza Maker is so hot, he nearly made me lose my favourite hat. And it's a rare, highly unusual mohair Kangol.

Mental Note: must go back to wait, are you talking about I Carusi in St Kilda? Oh no whoops your'e not.

*backs out of room*

everythings fine.

*clears throat*

Thanks, MG.

Rashoman you say Chai? Yes. Yes. Exactly. BUT AT LEAST IT WOULD NEVER BE OPRAH.

Sorry, just still a little stung by someone's remark.

*commits hara-kiri*

Chai said...

subl dude, hara kiri is for guys (ie. disembowelment)... Girls do something different. I think it is knife stabbed to throat. I dont know what is is called. Sepuku?
I think an eatery rashomon would be _so_ cool. U've familiar with the plot, right?

sublime-ation said...

Hara-Kiri and Sepuku are the same thing. And I can be a guy for a minute, it's cyberworld. If they can be us, let me be one of them. Ha ha Power is Mine! Now, make me a coffee, bitch!
Ok I'm a chick again. I saw Rashoman when years ago. I'll have to get it again.

MelbourneGirl said...

hello. i think seppuku is just the term for suicide generally and hara-kiri is one form, ie the ritual disembowlment performed with a big knife to one's own guts and then your "second" lops off your head from behind at the correct moment. this is in contrast to other more common forms of seppuku such as jumping in front of the roppongi train.

did you know that there were so many suicides on the train lines in japan that the government introduced heavy taxes for the families? but they kept one line without tax, which became known as the suicide line.

why are we talking about this here??

mmmm, sushi.

sublime-ation said...

we're easily side-tracked.

Anonymous said...

Things have indeed changed at Roberto's since the last post. A dinner with my girlfriend was a shambles. We were seated and menus handed to us and then ignored for 15 minutes bar the preening waiter taking away all but one water glass on the table. once our order was taken the wine was poored out of sight and brought to the table. The antipasto was mounted on a bed of limp greens for some odd reason- and then cracked pepper was offered from the rediculous grinder. Why would I want cracked pepper on a plate of ham, chees and olives? From there things really went downhill. Seemingly straightforward mains of pasta with meatballs and lasagne took 30 minutes to arrive. My lasagne was stone cold in the middle. Following the second attempt to get attention and pointing out that the dish was cold I received a reply "i'll put it back in the microwave'. 'Back' in the microwave? If I wanted a microwave lasagne I would have gone to the supermarket, not sat down for 40 minutes and paid $22! Waiter two relented and promised a 'fresh one'. the 'fresh one' 10 minutes later turned out to be half the size. After questioning number two, who stormed off and then preening waiter one, it turned out the hack in the kitchen had cut away the minor damage from the dish, wiped the plate and again microwaved the whole mess, garnishing the remains with some extra sauce. At this stage it seemed best to cut one's losses. A feeble refill of wine glasses was rebuffed with a request for the bill and an escape was made. A kebab a few doors down made for a much more pleasant expereince.
Roberto's - don't waste your time. Yet another terrible 'Italian' place in Melbourne with staff more interested in looking at themselves in the mirror than doing their job.

Chai said...

Oh dear. Sounds like if they dont pick up their game, the inevitable is bound to happen, sooner or later.

Anonymous said...


Your blog came to my attention through a friend. I do not know if these articles get read or taken seriously enough. However, if you, the readers, are genuinely interested in digging deep, I invite you to visit Roberto's again, make an informed opinion for yourself on what is (about to be) written here, and then share the news with as many friends as you believe it warrants (be it a few or many more)…

What I will let you in on right now is, the matter against the owner is serious enough to state as fact that the owner of Roberto’s has made serious physical and verbal threats in front of patrons and staff, and all over what appears to be a $6 dry cleaning bill with a staff member, and the owner’s own 'reflection' - image of how he is portrayed in front of his customers.

I do not believe in slander. At the same time, I could not recommend people to visit Roberto's for its dining experience. It is not good enough to think that because one serves good food, that one automatically has the right to be in business whilst making the law and rules as one deems fit.

Patrons, you earn your money and pay good dollar for when you choose to dine out, no matter what the occasion or on what you choose to dine and spend.

You should feel that you have the right to receive service that is presented in a sincere, safe and comfortable environment.

I do not care to antagonise anyone but believe the truth always gets revealed and that people are smart enough to make up their own opinion.

People are smart enough to make their own opinions. Visit, and make your opinion known to your friends.

Anonymous said...

This would have to be one of the worst dining experirnces I have had for a long time. The wine was ok...but we brought that ourselves.

2 of us dined there last Saturday night. There were 4 other tables seated when we arrived so the kitchen was not under the pump. We ordered a serve of bruschetta for entree and for main, the seafood platter and a pizza.. well...not one of the meals was any good. The Bruschetta consisted of an oval shaped pizza base topped in poorly cut "green tomato still with stem on". We asked the waiter very nicely to replace it. He abruptly said "i'll get you another" and returned 10 minutes later with another and commented "here you go". No apology...nothing. We were less than impressed at this point. It all got worse when the main arriaved. The seafood platter was an assortment of tasteless mussels, deep fried prawns, scallops & calamari. All sitting upon a terrible looking bed of salad. There was so much oil in this dish. As for the pizza.... it had a soggy base and the toppings were undercooked. Having read the sign in the shop window "voted Richmonds best pizza" we were very disappointed. We then wondered how many people voted...mmm...proibably just 1 and we're gussing that voters name was Roberto.

The service was unfriendly, the waiter (Roberto) was running around the restaurant at such a speed it was distracting. The other waiter (who did not know the menu) could be seen out front eating a pizza and smoking a cigarette on his break...mmm...not a good look.

In summary: We will never return and encourage everyone reading this to take note of what we believe to be one of the worst feeds in Richmond. McDonalds do a far better job.

Cheers, SIMON.

sublime-ation said...

Wow, really sounds like ol'Roberto's has gone down the gastronimical hill. This happens, tragically. I remember the pain of visiting one of my favourite Melbourne restaurants that did the most sublime risotto I had ever tasted, only to have some bland rice dish served up in its name. The chef had left. Thanks for your comment anon, I'm not sure I'll be rushing back to Roberto's to experience this but I should probably check it out. Thanks for reading.

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