Mezzalira: Best Canberra restaurants 2015

Kirsten Lawson
Vitello tonnato at Mezzalira.
Vitello tonnato at Mezzalira. Photo: Melissa Adams

Perhaps oddly for Canberra's finest Italian fine-diner, Mezzalira remains something of a work in progress, with owner Pasquale Trimboli mulling over ideas for a facelift for some years, and now aiming to do the work early next year. Which isn't to this long-stayer has been standing still. Far from it, the look has been pared back to a more modern and elegant feel in recent years, and well in tune with its location in a corner site in the historic Melbourne Building, with its air of gentle grandeur.

The Trimbolis have pitched Mezzalira more formally than Italian and Sons, but you'll find a similar approach here, especially in the focus on the joys a woodfired oven can bring to hunks of meat. The style is firmly Italian, so there's roast lamb shoulder with Italian stewed vegetables, roasted suckling pig with mustard fruits, duck with radicchio and vincotto.

Pasta is a strong point and we can never resist the pasta dishes with rabbit ragu, or ox-tail ragu, at the moment on the menu with pinenuts and currants. Another dish always on our order here and at Italian and Sons is sardines in saor, a sweet and sour pickled dish of sardines with currants, pinenuts and citrusy orange. 

There are no compromises in the food at Mezzalira, everything made onsite, and the wine list shows equal care as one of the best in town, properly focused on Italy and well supported by staff advice. If you're looking for somewhere for a casual, excellent lunch or snack, sit at one of the few tables on the London Circuit pavement outside and order from Da Rosario, the excellent stairwell cafe that makes such irresistible use of Mezzalira's woodfired oven in excellent pizzas and roasted meats for sandwiches.

55 London Circuit, Canberra, 6230 0025, mezzalira.com.au