South Morang may not be the first place you think of for Sunday lunch, but thanks to Farm Vigano, it certainly should be.
Farm Vigano started life as the home of one of Melbourne’s most iconic restauranteurs, Mario Vigano, of Mario’s in Exhibition St. Together with the original Florentino, Mario’s was THE place to eat in the 50’s in Melbourne. My mum, now in her 70’s, fondly recalls celebrating her 21st birthday there.
Mario’s wife was Maria Theresa, a noted artist, and together their contributions to the arts and hospitality led to Farm Vigano being heritage listed.
This grand ole dame is situated on a large parcel of land overlooking the Plenty Gorge, and the gardens include a large orchard which is home to fig, persimmon, pear and citrus trees.
Loving and thoughtfully restored by the team behind Zonzo at Train Trak in the Yarra Valley, and the E Lounge in Richmond, Farm Vigano is a now a beautiful restaurant dedicated to bringing the authentic taste of Italy to the table, with wonderfully dedicated (and in one particular case, deliciously flamboyant) staff.
I’d been looking for an excuse to try Farm Vigano since hearing about it last year, and my mother in law’s birthday was the perfect opportunity for a casual family lunch.
Arriving at the flagstoned entrance, a yellow and white striped awning smiling brightly at us, we were welcomed like family, and ushered to a table overlooking the gardens.
Starting with a bottle of excellent Prosecco (what else?) from Veneto, we sensibly decided on the Sharing Menu, which for $40 per person gave us a most generous platter of antipasto misto, a selection of pizza, and a large salad. Children eat half price for this option and also get looked after in the dessert department with a big bowl of gelato.
We also added a serve of the calamari fritti, and the slow braised lamb.
The antipasto platter contained all the classics, just done beautifully. Italian salami, cheeses, grilled zucchini and eggplant, olives, and some sweet yet tangy onions marinated in balsamic vinegar which were a crowd favourite.
The pizzas were a huge hit: thin bases, with fresh, quality ingredients allowed to shine in their simplicity. A dusting of semolina on the pizza tray pre-oven ensured the bases were perfectly crispy, and for me the standout was the pizza con gamberi – tomato sugo base, fior di latte cheese, marinated tiger prawns, baby spinach and mini roma tomatoes. The sweetness of those little tomatoes with spicy, salty prawns and the mild silky cheese was a marriage made in heaven and it was all happening in my mouth.
We also tried the margherita (perfect) and the carciofi e prosciutto – tomato sugo, Gorgonzola, artichokes, baby rocket and prosciutto. Again the mixture of salty rich flavours and textures played off each other creating perfect harmony for the taste buds.
We didn’t actually NEED the slow braised lamb but how could we resist? Paired with an Italian Sangiovese the tomato-based dish was juicy and tender, melted in the mouth and came served with small roasted potatoes. Delicioso.
Of course we couldn’t leave without sampling dessert. My old favourite tiramisu was on the menu so we ordered a serve to share, as well as the canele which came dipped in pistachios and adorned with glacé cherries. Both desserts were perfectly executed and neither were overly sweet. The tiramisu was beautifully textured, and the canele were small delightful morsels and the ideal way to end our meal, complemented with an excellent macchiato.
The service was faultless here – it was like being an extremely welcome guest in someone’s home. Mr 8 loved being able to run around in the gardens in between courses, and a stroll around the property at the end of a large amount of indulgence was the perfect finale.
Farm Vigano can be enjoyed by couples and large families alike. They also do weddings which I can only imagine would be simply gorgeous given the setting. That has me thinking…vow renewals…hmmmm…