195 Little Collins Street
You can almost hear the death rattle of the retailers that used to inhabit the old Georges department store space on Collins Street. Readers Feast have just moved in – may they have more luck than the fashion boutiques, homewares and others that have closed in this graveyard before them.
What’s odd is that the businesses at lower ground level positively thrive in this building. The Long Room always seems busy; and there’s a place turning out more bowls of pasta at lunchtime than possibly any other joint in the CBD on the other side – Basso’s. And yes, I am including Pellegrini’s and The Waiters Club in that comparison.
If you work in the area, at some stage your colleagues may have told you about a famed (and always conveniently absent) coworker who finished a main at Basso’s. This is the stuff of legend. The entree sized bowls are more than enough even for hungry men, and the complementary bread rolls and butter mean no-one’s leaving hungry.
The deal is this at Basso’s. You get a free soft drink or glass of wine with your meal if you present the flyer handed to you on the footpath of Little Collins street. Sometimes the guy handing out the flyers isn’t there and you pick it up inside. Normally it doesn’t even matter if you picked one up or not, you’ll get one anyway. Order your pasta, risotto or pizza at the counter, grab bread rolls, drinks and condiments and sit down. Your pasta will be with you in mere moments.
There are umpteen varieties of sauce and each can be subbed in with penne, fettucini, gnocchi etc., but I tend to rotate between penne siciliana (eggplant, capsicum, chilli) and risotto alla contadina (bacon, salami, chilli, spinach, mushrooms… I can’t remember what else is in it, but it’s a cracker.)
The pasta is delicious. Big chunks of eggplant, as shown, and grilled capsicum elevate the bowl from quick and nasty, “how can they serve me this so fast without cutting corners” to “I can’t believe I’m getting all this for $11.” Chopped fresh parsley is sprinkled on top and bowls of parmesan and chilli flakes are available to cover your bowl with if desired.
I’ve just read that the owners have changed hands recently, opening a new cafe on Flinders Lane (Cafe Del Corso) which looks to have pretty much the same menu from their website – so I’ll have to check that out – with the same group of carb-loving colleagues no doubt.