When you travel to Italy and dine out there is an overwhelming sense of belonging and understanding. We are very used to the Italian way of dining and the flavours, ambience and service that comes with it.
Luckily, there are many Italian restaurants in Melbourne where you feel like you are back in Italy on holiday enjoying the food, wine and culture that are seamlessly intertwined. On St Georges Road in North Fitzroy, about four years ago, a tiny bit of Italy planted itself in the community and continues to win the custom of locals.
Catherine and I have been to Supermaxi many times over the past four years, albeit we are not all that local. There are several dishes that have been here for the journey that we keep coming back for. It has become one of our favourite restaurants in Melbourne because on every occasion we’ve had warm service and genuine care for our dining experience. These features lead to the place being packed to the brim so the atmosphere is always abuzz.
Recently we shared dinner with Catherine’s family and friends to celebrate her birthday. Obviously, there is a huge difference in the dynamic when you are dining with 16 others as opposed to dining in a small group or as a couple! We had full confidence the restaurant would cope and provide a memorable experience and it lived up to our expectations. While there were some natural delays due to the size of the group, service was prompt and accommodating, and our waitperson Marco even managed to charm Catherine’s Mum (in a platonic way!)
Primi is a must at Supermaxi. The arancini are always packed full of flavour and crispy but not over-fried. The fried cauliflower is a cult hero here and is a great expression of this slightly docile vegetable, topped with onion jam that lifts the taste.
The pizzas are consistently excellent with delicious bases, nice and crisp, and featuring quality ingredients. Our favourite here, and actually our favourite of all time, is the Maxi, which has salty pancetta on a tomato base, with the bitterness in the radiccio adding a contrasting depth of flavour that I keep going back for. The Treccia mozzarella and parmigiano top it off perfectly.
Secondi features pasta, risotto, fish and meat dishes that are all fantastic. I mainly stick to the pasta, with the linguine a favourite, and the fatt’in casa a close second. The fatt’in casa is the house spaghetti with delicious meatballs and tomato sauce. A very generous portion, but not over the top, the spaghetti is beautiful and fresh. The linguine is olive oil based with a classic combination of prawns, garlic and chilli accompanying it, along with the interesting addition of zucchini.
The desserts are now classics here, including the signature fried custard. It’s indulgent and appropriate to share if you’ve already had a few courses. Then there’s the semifreddo which changes but is always well constructed and not too sweet.
There’s a good selection of drinks and a wine list that is balanced between Italian and local wines, and reasonably priced. The service is great with scripted, stiff floor staff, not needing to apply. There are misses as a result, but the charm of Italian restaurants is the authenticity of the staff, not necessarily perfect service in a clinical sense. I find it easy to relax in this type of setting and just enjoy the meal and the company. If you arrive early there are kids at most tables and you can tell they have enjoyed themselves as much as their parents. That’s a good advertisement for the vibe here.
Supermaxi is more than a good neighbourhood Italian. It has some exceptional dishes that you can eat in a setting that feels more like a holiday in Italy than a Saturday night in North Fitzroy.
Catherine and I were back at Supermaxi for Saturday night dinner recently. Sitting on the bar we reminisced about her birthday dinner a month ago and ordered some of our favourites to share over a relaxing evening.
The special antipasti featured beautiful fresh mozzarella as the star and it was exquisite. The Maxi pizza was delicious as ever, the combination of radiccio and pancetta never getting old, especially when on such a perfectly formed base. To finish we had the fried custard which sounds unusual but is a signature and for good reason. The texture of the thick custard is set off with the fried exterior and the ice cream adds some moisture.
As usual, service was accomplished and smart. Supermaxi just seems to deliver with ease, each and every time.