The restaurant at Melbourne's Hamer Hall Arts Centre formerly known as Trocadero has been stripped back, made over, rejigged, renamed and now reopened as the Italian-accented Fatto Bar & Cantina. The carpets and glamorous interior and bar of the former incarnation have been binned by design group Projects of Imagination in favour of timber floors, acres of white tiles, red neon signs, light boxes, butcher's paper on the tables and several rather lovely zinc-topped bar areas. There's also a great feeling of light and space, a sense of humour and a distinct lack of formality.
Van Haandel Group general manager and Fatto executive chef Anthony Musarra says that the food and the feel of the restaurant "will have an Italian bent but we're not particularly trying to be authentic. We want it to be theatrical and fun, a kind of 'let yourself go' Italian joint that's a sum of its parts. We're not doing anything fancy - it's energetic, confident and pacey".
The menu, which is available in the bar, dining room and out on the spacious terrace, takes a classic Italian structure and approach, using good ingredients simply cooked. It starts with the antipasti-like appetisers (tuna crudo, garlic zeppole, salt-cod arancini) and salumi before moving on to salads, pasta and secondi, like grilled king prawns with buckwheat polenta or pork cotoletta with fennel and apple slaw.
There's also a lengthy list of desserts that include the classic crumbly sbrisolona (a pine nut and almond cake, served here with stone fruit and cannoli cream) and the modern, playful caramel panna cotta with salted popcorn.
"It's easy, vibrant, familiar food," says Musarra, "but that kind of food is fraught with danger because simple Italian food is actually really hard to do well. "[Head chef] Nick [Bennett, ex-Cecconi's] really knows how to deliver the kind of food that you crave. Along with giving people a good time and the lack of pretension, I think we're going to be here for a long time."
Fatto Bar & Cantina, River Terrace, Hamer Hall Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, (03) 8698 8800. Open daily 11am-late.