2 Barney Street, Southport
You get a certain sense of occasion when you’re stepping up onto the wooden deck at De Vito’s entrance, the Nerang River to your left sparkling with scattered city lights. The property is huge and seems almost purpose-built with large parties and functions in mind.
Inside the L-shaped dining and bar area, big families and older couples sit, chatting merrily and being greeted like family by the staff and restaurant’s owner, classical singer David De Vito. The room is brightly lit, cheerful, humming with activity. A piano player on a low, pink-lit stage fills the area with music. It’s an unexpected experience after the relative darkness and silence of the wooden deck and its gently lapping waters.
Our waiter Stefano is clearly a long-time hospitality professional. Quick, attentive, unobtrusive. I struggle to decide between Oysters Waterfront style (grilled with herb and cream sauce, parmesan and crumbs, $21 for half a dozen) or the Ricotta-stuffed Mushrooms ($16) while my companion seizes immediately upon the Arancini ($15). Working off a recommendation, I veer instead towards the Gnocchi ($18) for my mezze sized entree.
Our dishes arrive, as much a feast for the eyes as the palate. Tonight’s ever-changing Arancini are ham and sundried tomato: crisp, hot and delicious, in a small amount of rich Italian tomato sauce that I could eat by the spoonful. The gnocchi are pillowy, pan-browned and lighter in texture than the norm, complemented wonderfully by a delicate basil cream sauce and toasted pinenuts. It’s Italian fare without the heft and stodge, a deft touch and clever use of fine, simple ingredients.
Our main issue at this point is that the size of the entree, as well as a couple of glass of a lovely Italian Pinot Grigio (Tiefenbrunner $48) , have left us with limited room for the remainder of the meal. We sit back and stretch, aiming to let our starters settle. A lovely young chef comes out and grabs a roving microphone. The background music swells and she launches into a stunning rendition of At Last. The chef is David De Vito’s fiance and fellow vocalist, Tarscha. She is a strong singer with a rich tone, and wanders through the restaurant smiling and grasping hands with the patrons. It’s a lovely interlude in the evening.
Our mains arrive. We found the menu to have more of an Italian feel to it than to be packed to the brim with what most would consider to be standard Italian food, and so we eschewed the pasta menu ($26 – $34) for meatier fare, a braised Beef Cheek dish (also a recommendation, $36) for me and Confit Duck ($35) for my dining partner – although it was close call with the crispy-skinned Barramundi and beurre blanc sauce ($36) nearly winning out.
The menu is elegant in its simplicity and well-worn techniques. No faffy, unpronounceable cookery or pretentious presentation. Just good quality fresh ingredients, cooked with care and in ways which allow their natural qualities to shine. It’s a menu created by someone who genuinely understands food and places the value of flavour above the desire to keep up with all the latest trends.
The beef is, by far, the most tender, melt-in-the mouth meat of any description I have tried. Slowly and lovingly braised, it is served simply atop tender-crisp carrots, broccolini and duck fat potatoes, in a rich shiraz jus. The jus with the confit duck has a background of floral notes to it, perhaps some star anise and cloves going into its making. Also tender with a perfectly browned skin, the dish is deep in flavour, although slightly on the salty side for my friend’s taste, who can only manage half of it.
David and Tarscha sing a beautiful duet of The Prayer during the mains. Another vocalist Olwen, who runs the venue’s $10 Martini Monday nights, gets the diners’ toes tapping with a couple of faster swing numbers. The versatile pianist is now standing, playing trumpet against the backing tracks. It’s like a musical family affair, with patrons encouraged to sing along.
By now completely stuffed, we gather up our courage and decide to take one for the team by ordering dessert. Our Creme Brulee ($16) and Sticky Date Pudding ($16) arrive promptly. The dessert menu of course also includes Tiramisu ($16) and Affogato ($10), however we found we couldn’t go past our own personal faves. Unfortunately our brulee in this instance has very little crack in the sugar top and I feel it was also overdone and slightly separated, with a texture that was a smidge too firm and not completely smooth. However my friend still enjoys it heartily. The creme brulee is definitely more delicate in flavour, a less-sweet option for those who find most dessert to be overbearing. The caramel sauce on the sticky date pudding is a deep colour, fresh and warm, and needs to be bottled so I can have some every day over icecream. It’s a decent portion (no surprises by this point!) and packs a wonderfully sugary punch which is not for the faint-of-heart.
Utterly satiated, we enjoy a few final tunes before heading home. De Vitos Waterfront is a charming restaurant, with flavour-packed, well-executed, fuss-free dishes and a unique and jovial vibe. If you like a side of singing with your sticky date or are after a place with a sense of occasion for a large party or function, it is ideally suited, and located less than a $10 Uber ride from Surfers Paradise.
You can book a table online for De Vitos Waterfront or call 5532 8376. Martini Mondays see tapas and martinis start at $10 from 6.00pm, a more affordable option for those who want the location and atmosphere without the three course price tag. They also do breakfast on Sundays and have a range of special holiday events and set menu deals, the next being ANZAC Day lunch on 25 April.
Natalie dined as a guest of De Vitos Waterfront