For better and for worse, Ronnie lives and breathes his restaurant. Has done ever since he opened it , in then deeply unfashionable St Kilda in January 1988 . Nearly 20 years on, the two–hatted Café Di Stasio is as fresh, compelling and incomparable as ever.
In some ways it’s old-fashioned. There has never been a celebrity chef at Di Stasio. Like the classic dining rooms of Europe, it’s a restaurateur’s restaurant, run by someone with a deep understanding of the art of hospitality and backed up by a strong maitre d’’ (Mallory Wall). The food is wonderful, in a casual, understated, very Italian way; the mood clubby, bohemian, seductive.
It’s owner is a restaurant industry luminary. “Ronnie applies a level of energy and manic attention to detail that most people just cannot sustain,” says his friend and fellow restaurateur Chris Lucas, who names him Australia’s best restaurateur in the book “Botanical” by Paul Wilson. “It’s very, very hard to stay that focused over such a long period.”
So how does Di Stasio maintain this paternally obsessive level of involvement? Probably only the man himself could answer that. One thing’s for certain ; there’s only one Café Di Stasio. And there’s only one Ronnie – a fact the man himself would be the first to say is a bloody good thing. Or something like that but more strongly worded.
Necia Wilden, Epicure, The Age
Enigmatic, occasionally petulant, even childlike. It’s all been said about Rinaldo Di Stasio. What’s less often acknowledged is his vision as a restaurateur , his professional influence among his peers and the almost unheard of longevity of Café Di Stasio –approaching 20 years – as one of Melbourne’s coolest dining rooms, the result of almost constant micro-refinement and re-evaluation by an obsessive “patrone’.
Necia Wilden, Age Good Food Guide