When he arrived in Melbourne almost a decade ago, ambitious Italian chef Paolo Arlotta didn’t mess around; he quickly landed a job in one city’s best restaurants – Vue de Monde.
In recent years he’s been freelancing, though, most notably running Herbivorous Nights, an intimate north-side vegetarian dinner series, which regularly sells out a month in advance.
Soon, Arlotta will channel his broad CV into a single venture: Riso, a daytime cafe and night-time restaurant, taking over the Young Bloods Diner space at Fitzroy’s Rose Street Market.
The menu for both will be “Italian-inspired, but nothing you would expect from a classic Italian restaurant”, Arlotto says.
Expect seasonal, sustainable, local produce, with a focus on low-waste, healthy dining and at least one “creative” pasta and risotto at lunch and dinner. Everything will be vegetarian, with plenty of options for vegans.
The cafe will serve coffee from Brunswick roaster Ona and open seven days, initially for takeaway only. Eventually, it’ll open late as a restaurant on Fridays and Saturdays, serving six-course degustation dinners in the vein of Herbivorous Nights (pending incoming restrictions).
The name Riso comes from the Italian word meaning both rice and laughter – two things Arlotto hopes his first permanent venue will have plenty of.
“I come from a region in Italy where rice production and risotto are kind of the main thing in the cuisine, so it’s an ode to my roots. Also, I make quite good risotto and am very specific on the way it’s made,” he says. “[The word] also means laughter, which is the vibe we want to cultivate through our service – really friendly and casual, but always with high-quality food.”
The former industrial space, which has been brightened up with sapphire paint and lots of plant life, is already split into three zones – a main dining room, courtyard and the rooftop.
Arlotto hopes the indoor-outdoor dining room can be set-up to meet any new rules for al fresco dining.
Riso will open in stages at 60 Rose Street, Fitzroy from mid-October.