Pinocchio's Pizza Restaurant is a fabulous Italian restaurant in trendy South Yarra that has recently undergone a transformation of note. After 40 years of successful trading the restaurant has lost its 70s mission brown and straw roofing for a modern fit out with stunning Pinocchio themed art work on the walls, modern lighting and panelling, and one of the coolest vibes in the precinct.
The illustrations of Pinocchio from the 1883 classic tale are compelling - and tell a story of one of the owners, John Gdanski, who treasured a vintage copy of the book as a boy. It's the charming vintage illustrations that are reproduced on the walls - rather than the Disney looking Pinocchio some of us are familiar with.
The menu at Pinocchio's has also been revamped. New chefs and an imaginative menu have made Pinocchio's more than pasta and pizza. In saying this, both the pasta and pizza are great. Pinocchio's provides an authentic Italian dining experience including ingredients sourced from Italy.
We were invited as guests to sample the menu at Pinocchio's. Sharing plates are a popular experience these days, and Pinocchio's delivers with its Cicchetti small sharing dishes. The pick of the tasting plates was the Arancini - being arancini of the day (yes it changes every day). We also enjoyed the sumptuous Panino di Agnello mini sticky pulled lamb shoulder panino with garlic aoli and baby cress. To me this was like a lamb slider. The brioche bun probably meant it was Italian with a twist, but personally I love sweet brioche with meat.
The Zucchini flowers were moorish and delicate with an amazing Moreton Bay Bug filling. The Eggplant chips were tasty albeit a little dry. The pizza dough pan fritto with aoli was interesting in its texture.
Pinocchio's is a great Italian tale and the theme is also translated to the plates... You often gaze at the large sketches depicting the classic story of Pinocchio along the wall as you consume your meal. With lamps highlighting the scenes you feel like you're in a gallery.
Pinocchio's did us a favour by serving their dishes on a mounted small bench/table - a great idea for presentation and for saving space on the table. And very Italian rustic.
We were then able to sample Pinocchio's woodfire oven pizza and the home made pasta. Pinocchio's serves up authentic Italian style pizza with crispy thin crust and fresh quality ingredients - while not overdone. All the ingredients I look for and enjoy were there - buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto and wild rocket. This is top shelf pizza. The range is extensive - I counted about 27 pizzas on the menu. A good sign of quality is that the takeaway business thrives - the locals love their Pinocchio's pizza. We enjoyed the Diavolo pizza with yellow San Marzano tomatoes, hot N'duja salami, buffalo mozzarella, and wild rocket.
All the pasta is made on site and we enjoyed the Braised veal shin and pancetta ravioli with creamy sage butter. I could eat this ravioli on its own - the pasta was that good. The veal filling was excellent and the sage butter was a triumph. Flecks of crispy sage across the ravioli was clever.
With sampling you're allowed to leave some of the dish and move on to the next. But we were devouring this cuisine dish by dish. The Squid ink risotto with calamari and king prawns was delectable and one of my favourites of the night. A rich dish but I'm into that.
After all that fine cuisine we tasted the Gnocchi, another hit dish, with perfectly cooked home made gnocchi and superb tomato sauce. With cheese melted over the top I could see myself wanting this on a cold Melbourne winters day.
Pinocchio's has certainly left the 70s and boldly moved into the modern Italian cuisine arena. And just when we thought we'd sampled so much of their new menu, we were served up a third tasting plate to share. It's tough as a blogger but for king and country we pressed on...
Pinocchio's has some excellent secondi dishes including 40 day aged Porterhouse steak from King Valley - so tender and a quality piece of meat. We were also treated to salmon salad and cutlets of note.
I was beginning to feel like I was at a Medieval banquet such was the volume of food. But I was not complaining. A delightful Chianti was served with our food.
Pinocchio's offers impressive desserts such as the Tiramisu (not too dry and not too alcohol based). Also we devoured a Lemon tart and Chocolate cannoli extravaganza.
Pinocchio's served us up the most food I've ever consumed in a sitting. The important thing was I enjoyed it all. Apart from the Eggplant chips being a bit dry (not a major problem) I was impressed indeed.
Pinocchio's also serves up a range of quality cocktails.
Pinocchio's also provided us with some of the best service we've had in Melbourne. The wait staff were engaging, knowledgeable and almost perfect in their quality of service. The homely feel was enhanced when the owner Renato came out an greeted us. We hear he is super passionate and hands on when it comes to the food.
Pinocchio's is a great option in South Yarra and boasts an appealing ambience and fine Italian cuisine. The place was packed on a Thursday night and this included several families.
Renato told us there are several restaurants in the Italian restaurant stable including the Pinocchio's in Hampton. Highly recommended.