Friday afternoon on Twitter:

@jetsettingjoyce: Going to a concert at Melb Recital Centre. Dining black hole. Any suggestions for nearby dinner (not EQ, always end up at EQ)?

@tephdee:  tutto bene at southbank does great risotto http://www.tuttobene.com.au/

[an hour later]

@jetsettingjoyce: oh my I looooved Tutto Bene! Look out for HOT review and thanks for tip!

@tephdee: my pleasure. it’s one of the few decent places at southbank IMHO enjoy the show.

Such is the power of social media as a curated search medium. So, as promised, here’s a review of my wonderful solo dinner at Tutto Bene.

I’m not sure how they’ve achieved it but Tutto Bene manages to feel spacious and cosy at the same time. It’s the kind of restaurant which caters to all diners – families, couples, groups of friends and singles and on a Friday night it had a distinctly friendly and warm atmosphere which made me just want to cuddle up in my candelit corner table. Otherwise if you sit out on the covered verandah you can enjoy views of Southbank and the Yarra, which makes it a great dining location for visitors.

Tutto Bene‘s full name is ‘Tutto Bene Risotteri’ so it would be remiss of me not to try one of their famous risottos as my main course. The risotto menu ranges from classic, seafood, vegetarian and meat and I decided on Zafferano e spinaci novelli con confit di trota di mare all’olio extra vergine d’oliva, which translates to saffron, baby spinach and E.V.O.O. confit of ocean trout with salmon roe ($27.50).

I knew the risotto was freshly prepared when I had to wait 20 minutes for it (Giorgio Locatelli from Michelin-starred Locanda Locatelli stipulates 18 minutes cooking time exactly) and it arrived rather sloppy on a flat plate – a minor mark deducted for presentation given that the risotto was quite wet.

Anyway, the ultimate test was the texture of the rice. And it was absolutely perfect. Possibly the most perfect risotto I’ve eaten. Soft, yet with bite, no hard uncooked bits, no gluey feel or stodgy heaviness. The flavours also combined very well and I especially loved the little salty pops of salmon roe punctuating the creamy saffron base. It was silky, sophisticated and an overall gorgeous dish.

With a main course like this I felt like I had to try dessert. I scanned the menu for my favourite Italian dessert, a tiramisu. It wasn’t there so the next best thing was Brulee al tiramisu con ganache di cioccolato e gelato al mascarpone – Tiramisu infused brulee served with house-made mascarpone gelati and chocolate ganache ($13).

When it came out on the long white platter I actually gasped. It was beautifully presented and when I cracked my spoon over the brulee it shattered perfectly into crunchy shards. Underneath, beautiful creaminess with just a hint of coffee. The gelati was equally creamy and the chocolate ganache was in fact a soft biscotti sandwiched with a mint chocolate ganache. It was exactly my kind of dessert and I thought it a bargain for $13.

Even though I was dining alone I didn’t feel rushed or awkward and I left the restaurant glowing from my wonderful meal. I’m not sure why I haven’t been to Tutto Bene before now, as it’s exactly the kind of place I like – a relaxed and convivial atmosphere, smiling service, high quality food with a reasonable price tag. A real pleasure.

Tutto Bene on Urbanspoon