421 Rathdowne St
Carlton , 3053 VIC
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Opening Hours

SUN 12:00pm - 11:00pm
MON closed
TUE closed
WED 6:00pm - 11:00pm
THU 6:00pm - 11:00pm
FRI 6:00pm - 11:00pm
SAT 12:00pm - 11:00pm

The Details

  • Italian
Need to Know
  • Good for Groups
  • Great for Dates
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Dessert
In the mood for
  • Cocktails
  • Wine

The Verdict

So long, Beaufort. We had some good times.

Yep, Rathdowne St’s old sailor-themed dive bar is dead in the water. And we’ve been waiting anxiously to see what kind of Melbourne high-concept, super-fusion would take its place. Mongolian meets South African? Tibetan vegan jaffles? The suspense was killing us.

Well, the wait is officially over. Capitano is here, from the team behind Bar Liberty, Rockwell & Sons and Above Board (the pedigrees don’t come much better than that).

Capitano isn’t a dive bar. And it isn’t American. It’s a relaxed Italian eatery that’s shuffled into the Clare Castle Hotel like an old man putting on a Tuscan pinstripe suit.

There’s an Art Deco feel to the interiors: those classic pendant lights, the rounded curves on the mirrors, black and white terrazzo flooring, all picked out in muted greens, blues and reds. The sort of space that can slip pretty easily from Friday night dinner service to lazy Sunday lunch.

The food? It’s the sort of stuff co-owner, chef Casey Wall, eats on his days off. Big bowls of clam chitarra pasta (aka ‘guitar string’ pasta), tossed in a clammy broth, spiked with dashi, lemon, butter and parsley. It looks a bit like your kids’ dinner, and tastes like an Italian seafood explosion.

Want more? Think big baked-in-the-pan lasagna, built to share. A rotating mix of blackened, Neapolitan-style pizzas, cooked on a 48-hour fermented base, topped with shaved prosciutto, pork neck gabagool, or three different cheeses (Wall favours a combo of pecorino, aged and fresh Mozzarella).

It’s pretty smart cooking really. You order up a giant veal parma (bone in), grab a side of wild greens, dressed in anchovies, wash it down with a Peroni Rosso or a top-notch bottle of red. No muss, no fuss.

Bar Liberty is known for its crazy wine cellar, but Capitano plays things straight down the line. You’ve got about 20 different wines by the glass, plus 100 more by the bottle. Most are from the motherland (Italia), although there are some cheeky local drops as well. Anything that tastes good with a red sauce pasta or a folded pizza slice.

People looking for a shady night out on Rathdowne St might not have The Beaufort anymore, but that’s okay. Capitano offers something else: simple food, amazing service and a memorable meal.

Not a bad trade, all things considered. 

Image credit: Helena La Petite