Balaclava has a new wine bar tucked into the arcade that runs behind Carlisle Street fruit shop Tesoriero & Luca. Teso's owner Chris Gaunt is a partner in Gigi's Wine & Tapas Bar, alongside Italian-born chefs Marco Dazzan (ex-Geppetto Trattoria in East Melbourne) and Cesare Magistro (ex-DOC Espresso).
The small shop seats 32 in a cosy space strung with greenery and with an open kitchen behind the bar. There's more seating outside but undercover in the dog-friendly arcade, and the plan is to look after locals with lunch deals and after-work snacking.
The brief menu has antipasto platters and snacks such as polenta chips served with chilli mayonnaise, olives marinated in orange zest, and fried calamari with a salad of fennel, radicchio and almonds.
Pasta and bread are all house-made. There's a focus on gluten-free dining, which isn't much of a stretch for the chefs as both of their wives are coeliac. Vegan dishes are also dotted through the menu – don't tell nonna but the lasagne is made with a soy ragu.
Italian options on the wine list are building up steadily; meantime, the spritzes are on song.
"We are not just another Italian restaurant," says Dazzan. "We are mixing our Italian heritage with Australian cuisine and catering to our diverse audience."
Open Wed-Sun noon-11pm.
Shop 4, The Arcade, 246-252 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, 0429 274 868, gigiswinetapas.com.au