The furniture, kitchen, even the tablecloths have seen change at Florentino Grill, but its bones are mostly intact.
The tablecloths went with the renovation, as did the original canopy above the open kitchen, replaced by a magnificent stainless steel, size-of-a-small-apartment number, installed to deal with the smoke from the new asado and Josper oven. The furniture has changed too. Now it's all sleek-lined timber stained the same nearly black as the wood panelling.
But the Florentino Grill's Robin Boyd-designed bones are mostly intact. The room has retained its finger-poppin' sense of pace, all closely packed tables and white-aproned waiters dancing around each other in the tight space, so the most distinct change is a sharpening of focus on the menu. Gone is the pan-Italian greatest-hits brief, replaced by an authentic, rustic take that zooms in on Tuscany and its surrounds.
Grilling is central, aptly enough, and chef Mario Di Natale shows a deft hand with the asado. Calamari, Skull Island prawns, White Rocks veal, wild barramundi and five different steaks all get the charcoal treatment, but there's great stuff elsewhere, too. Entrées of note include a brilliant musetto (the terrine-like northern Italian pig's-head sausage) splashed with parsley oil; subtly smoky charred peppers (from the Josper) dabbed with ricotta; and pickled tongue, pan-grilled and moreish, served with salsa verde and thin slices of radish.
The short pasta section has a couple of musts - testaroli, Liguria's pancake-like shreds tossed with basil, pecorino and oil, and yolk-yellow pappardelle with a sublime duck and porcini ragù. Service, led by Carlo Grossi, is sharp and to the point, and the user-friendly Italian-heavy wine list plays a straight, enjoyable bat. "Reinvented" is not quite right. Reinvigorated certainly is.
Florentino Grill, 80 Bourke St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9662 1811, grossiflorentino.com. Open Mon-Sat noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm