Maurice Terzini and Joseph Vargetto to open Cucina Povera in Melbourne CBD

Joseph Vargetto (left) is teaming up with three generations of the Terzini family, including  Sylvester and Arnaldo, on ...
Joseph Vargetto (left) is teaming up with three generations of the Terzini family, including Sylvester and Arnaldo, on Cucina Povera. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Restaurateur Maurice Terzini, who owns Bondi's Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, is teaming up with chef Joseph Vargetto to open Cucina Povera Vino Vera in Melbourne's CBD in November.

It is Terzini's first Melbourne foray for eight years but this time he will be joined by his son, Sylvester Terzini, 29, who will run the service and beverage components of the restaurant.

Vargetto, who owns Mister Bianco in Kew, will be in charge of the food in collaboration with both Terzinis, and they say the menu will honour the simple peasant-style food of Italy. Cucina Povera will be housed in Vargetto's second restaurant, Massi, in Little Collins Street.

"We will work with local producers to craft dishes that pay homage to Italian immigrants to this country and their authentic, no-waste cooking," Vargetto says.

"This is about respecting tradition," says Maurice Terzini. "The simple food cooked by migrants who created amazing passatas, salumi and hand-made pastas in garages across this country. But we are creating our own Australian-influenced take on that." 

Sylvester Terzini says Massi will be overhauled with the cutting-edge flair and design savvy for which Maurice Terzini is renowned.

Massi in the Melbourne CBD will be reborn as Cucina Povera.
Massi in the Melbourne CBD will be reborn as Cucina Povera. Photo: Josh Robenstone

"The floor will buzz with the frenetic energy of all dad's restaurants," says Terzini junior, who has worked with his father since he was 14. 

"There will be a tight wine list of Victorian-only wines and we are working with Joe Jones [from Romeo Lane] on the drinks list." 

Maurice Terzini, whose 30-year career as a restaurateur began at Caffe e Cucina in South Yarra, says there is potential to create several of these restaurants around Melbourne.

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"The next one will be called La Seconda Cucina and it will be dedicated to the suburban garages as well."

Terzini has captained 18 businesses, many with multi-million-dollar budgets. "But we are not spending millions on Cucina Povera. There are no huge budgets, no forecasted earnings.

"I am returning to Melbourne in a lo-fi manner. This is a love project and I have a feeling it will be a highlight of my career."

Maurice Terzini pictured at Icebergs in Sydney.
Maurice Terzini pictured at Icebergs in Sydney. Photo: Janie Barrett

Vargetto says work on renovating Massi will start next week. The plan is to open the 55-seater in early November, depending on when Melbourne is released from lockdown.

Maurice Terzini's father, Arnaldo, will help on the floor, as he did at Terzini's last venture in Melbourne, Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons at Southbank.

445 Little Collins Street, Melbourne