Matt Preston ate 150 pizze before committing the article “Melbourne’s Best Crusts” to print in The Age two and a half years ago. And so I learnt that Watson & Di Palma’s is a chain store, the youngest kid in the unhappy company of Hawthorn and Kew sibblings. The Hawthorn store made it into the “Other Names Worth Mentioning” category, well below Abbotsford’s E-Lounge which got its own write up (deservedly so). I ate dinner at the Abbotsford place last night, and had a good meal for not too much by ordering entree sizes. Pizze are from $10 to $13.50 for a small, and from $16 to $18.50 for a large. Secondi are from $23.50 to $28.50, and pastas from $13.50 to $16.50 for small and $17.50 to $22.50 for mains.
My visit was prompted by a friend who had just silently given birth to a girl called Anne Elizabeth and described the happily orthodoxly named creature in much the same breath as she told me that Jimmy Watson’s had muscled into Abbotsford. Unless there’s something eluding me, I suppose she was talking about Watson & Di Palma’s at the start of the Studley Park Road hill, on the corner of Clarke St, the last on teh right before the bridge over the Yarra. This incursion of Carlton into Abbotsford is not exactly breaking news, and except that they sell Jimmy Watson’s labelled wines, I remain uncertain what link the pictured Carlton institution has with the place.
I had known of it for a long time but the premises had such an unhappy past (Ruby Red) that historical prejudice had blinkered me, for years. They’re open for lunch on weekdays, for dinner from 5.30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and they have a tiny beer garden and a happy hour, and a bottle shop, open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Their gnocchi al ragu, at $13.50 for a perfectly filling entree size, was bloody fantastic, and a $16.50 entree sized linguini marinara was equally good. I was delighted when they bought me a glass of champagne when I asked for a Cooper’s Sparkling and then invited me to drink the error on the house, promptly bringing me a bottle of — oh well, I said — Cooper’s Pale. There’s something not-quite-there-yet about the place: weird location, unhappy past not-quite-yet-erased, no bread on the table, too much space, and slightly amateur waiters, but the food is really good, the ambience pleasant, the prices good value, and they are prepared to deliver for just $2.50. Despite the size, the place was almost so busy on a Friday night that we could not get in without a booking at 7 p.m., and people were enjoying themselves.