The new licensing laws allowed cafés in Victoria to serve a glass of wine, a coffee or a complete meal. Caffè e Cucina, founded by Maurice Terzini with the intention of re-creating the cafés of “Milano, Bologna, Firenze & Roma” showed how it should be done. And the Italian-speaking waiters were very, very cute.
In 1984, the Victorian Government announced a review of the Liquor Control Act 1968 which would “enquire into, review and report upon the objectives, administration, efficiency and effectiveness” of the Act. The review was chaired by Dr John Nieuwenhuysen, an economist at the University of Melbourne. Its report was published in January 1986 and ran to two hefty volumes, plus a separate summary and an appendix. It made a total of 184 recommendations, advocating a more European approach to the sale of alcohol.
The liquor licensing laws changed in 1987 in response to the Niewenhuysen report, making it much less expensive to obtain a liquor licence and removing the requirement for cafes and restaurants to serve food with alcohol. From 571 on-premises (restaurant) licences in Victoria in 1986 the numbers grew to 5,136 by 2004. The changes paved the way for a new generation of smart cafés in Melbourne. Caffè e Cucina was one of the first. It is still going strong (as of September 2018).
According to Best Restaurants of Australia:
Caffè e Cucina, an intimate Italian restaurant, is a long-running success story on South Yarra’s busy Chapel Street. The eatery has been around since 1988 and Melbournites depend on its presence when they’re craving Nonna’s kitchen. The interior is happily cramped, with big posters, awards and mementos plastered on the walls, a large and busy bar area and small tables tucked wherever possible.
Originally, Caffè e Cucina was a relatively inexpensive but chic place for casual dining and had proudly authentic Italian food. But if you can believe this review from Good Food in early 2017, it subsequently became expensive, offering such bizarre dishes as a “signature prawn and pineapple salad” (which doesn’t sound very Italian to me) or chocolate, walnut and blue cheese tagliatelle.
The review did point out, however, that the waiters were still a feature of the restaurant. “The flirty waiters make diners feel adored and respected,” they said.
(It’s a shame that, despite aiming for authenticity, the restaurant got the language slightly wrong. The accent on the e in Caffè is actually the wrong way round in the logo.)