80 Bourke Street (near corner Exhibition Street)
The third of my series of extravagant Express Lunches (as opposed to my normal ‘student’ lunches of either tuna sandwiches or baked beans, both of which I love, don’t get me wrong) was held at Grossi Florentino with workmates from a previous job – all serious foodies!
On the menu (imagine you’re chewing on some all-right-but-nothing-special foccacia while you contemplate this) were three options for each course – oh, and also imagine that Guy Grossi himself (cue foodie star spotting nerd grin) is sitting at the table behind you!
I went off my standard “try and convince everyone to have entree + main + dessert”, because the entrees on the menu didn’t grab me. I’m not a huge fan of veal. For some reason I am squeamish about eating little cows, even though I realise this is a pretty hypocritical notion considering I drink the milk their mothers produce and I eat their ruminant cousins, the lambs. Plus, the pasta sounded a bit boring. Therefore, I moved directly to mains.
Luckily we did manage to get a selection of the mains around the table. I had the braised beef, red wine and tomato, polenta dish – so baby cows are wrong while their mums and dads are okay, apparently (I need to develop a better food philosophy… or at least a more internally consistent one). I had a feeling when ordering it that it would be rich and hearty, and well worth my while.
Well – I was right. The polenta was silky smooth (it could only have been nicer if it was that decadent French mashed potato!) and the beef was fall-apart-at-your-fork tender. The sauce was rich and unctuous. It was also a rather huge portion, served in a GINORMOUS bowl in which it was impossible to rest your knife and fork lest they fall in and get saucy (the minxes). I laughed when I read the same thing happened when Sweet and Sour Fork recently visited – so it’s not just me who struggled with that bowl!
LeBron – he plays basketball with me, hence the nickname – ordered the fish of the day with braised silverbeet. A very different dish to mine, but he said it was light but enjoyable (and he’d had the pasta entree to begin with, so wasn’t looking for a hearty main as well).
The final main was one that LeBron and I had been contemplating HARD while waiting for the others to arrive, but in the end managed to convince our mate Trance Addict to order: pollo ripieno, translated as rolled chicken with herb stuffing, almond, white wine sauce and spiced chickpeas. He really liked it. In fact, we all must have loved our dishes because none of us offered to share with any of the others.
I knew I wanted to order the beef pretty much from the outset, but dessert was harder. There was a choice between a chocolate hazelnut torte (safe; I knew I would love that) and cannoli. I chose the cannoli siciliani with ricotta and maraschino filling and was amply rewarded. The cannoli had a very hard exterior, harder than I was expecting, but the filling was fantastic and there was even a quenelle (thanks for that addition to my vocabulary Masterchef) of berry sorbet on the side AND chopped pistachio on the ends of the cannoli. Trance Addict was looking longingly at my plate so I had to begrudgingly share some of it with him. But I wanted it all to myself, damnit.
I did a little research on your behalf just now, dear reader, just to see if Sicilian cannoli are any different to ‘normal’ cannoli (ie. supposed to have a much harder pastry), and I find that cannoli actually originated from Sicily. So – this is the real deal. Pick it up with your fingers and chomp on it!
Overall, our lunch was a success but I have been reviewing the Grossi menu trying to work out what they did here. Our meal was hearty and portions were large, but I don’t think what we got served was the top notch “Grossi Florentino fine dining restaurant” food. I think what we actually ate, was Cellar Bar or The Grill food (the two other Grossi restaurants sharing the flagship digs) – as in, cheaper and more accessible, but a little more standard, if you know what I mean.
Not that I didn’t enjoy my experience – I did, but nothing blew my mind. I just had a very very good Italian lunch, washed down with a nice pinot noir. I did like the very Italian service, though – lots of buon giornos! The room we ate in doesn’t look like the decor has been updated since the 1980s, but maybe that’s the point. In a world of fly-by-night restaurant openings and closings, Grossi Florentino trades on its consistency. I’d come back, but maybe not in a hurry.
Other bloggers (aside from Sweet and Sour Fork mentioned above) who enjoyed the Grossi Florentino express lunch deal were Natalie of Let Me Feed You, who ordered the same as I did and liked it just as much. Other bloggers have reviewed the Grossi Florentino restaurant proper, but I think what you get at the restaurant might be very different to the Express Lunch deal. You have been warned!