Father and son duo Alessio and Armando Villani are no strangers to the baking game. Before opening their thriving Avondale Heights bakery Impasto in 2014, the pair were selling bread at three different bakeries they owned in Deer Park and East Keilor. Now the Villanis have ventured into restaurant territory for the first time with Il Porto.
“We saw a big demand for pizza – we were doing pizza at Impasto already, and so we just thought we’d expand,” Alessio says. “It’s given us more of an opportunity to engage with the customers on a restaurant level, rather than just takeaway.”
At Il Porto, as at Impasto (which is just a few shopfronts away), it’s all about the dough. The Villanis work to a family recipe using locally milled 00 flour that’s leavened for 55 hours, then cooked in a stone-base electric oven. And nothing highlights the resulting base better than the two classics: the margherita and the marinara.
“[They’re the] traditional two pizzas that started it all,” Alessio says. “It’s where everyone started.” Other pizzas on the menu include the Zucchini Gamberetti, with king prawns, roasted zucchini, fior di latte and mint; the Tonno e Cipolla with tuna, capers, parsley and caramelised red onion (marinated in wine); and the Boscaiola, with pork and fennel sausage, roasted peppers, sliced potato, thyme, red onion and Grana Padano.
Aside from pizza, there’s tuna carpaccio, eggplant parmigiana and four types of bruschetta (including buffalo mozzarella and olive, and San Daniele prosciutto and ricotta) on the menu. For dessert, the ricotta cannoli is a textbook rendition of the Sicilian classic, dipped in chocolate chips at one end, and pistachio crumb on the other.
To drink, there’s a selection of local and Italian beers and wines, plus an Espresso Martini, a Negroni and three spritzes – a sloe gin version, a French-style Lillet spritz, and The Hugo, which is made with prosecco, elderflower syrup, seltzer and mint (“It should be the next Aperol Spritz,” quips Alessio).
The fit-out, designed by the Villanis, is casual and simple. A line of pendant lights leads to a fridge where legs of San Daniele prosciutto hang. There are two clocks, one with the local time and one on Italy time.
The duo chose stool seating over dining chairs for a more casual feel, and the pizza is prepared at a large marble benchtop. “It’s probably the best surface to prepare dough and manipulate dough on,” Alessio says. “We use a lot of marble.”
145 Military Road, Avondale Heights
(03) 9331 2144
Tue to Thu 4pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 4pm–10.30pm