By combining family values and Italian sophistication, Scotty Mollard breathed new life into this classic Melbourne establishment.
With a 30-year history in the industry, the Bortolotto family understands the ins and outs of running restaurants. Olimpia Bortolotto, now in her seventies, and her two daughters, business partners Maria and Anna, have merged their Italian heritage, family values and cuisine flair to produce much-loved establishments in Melbourne’s CBD.
After opening Cecconi’s at Crown Casino in 1996, they followed up with their sister venue, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane in 2006. Its basement-level location provided a beguiling inner-city ambience—renowned for its dark nooks and mood lighting—but over time, the style and configuration needed a revamp.
“The bones were all pretty good,” says Scotty Mollard, interior designer at Mollard Interiors, “but the colour palette was a little dated. It needed to be reworked to capture the style of a timeless, authentic Italian restaurant.”
One of the priorities was to introduce two different zones—a formal dining area and a new casual eatery with comfortable banquette seating. “Cecconi’s is well known for its traditionally heavy Italian meals but Maria wanted to introduce a lighter, faster eating environment,” says Mollard. “Now it’s a popular spot for breakfasts and light lunches.”
The interior colour palette is restricted to neutral tones, topped with black, white and copper elements for contrast. “We wanted the space to feel familiar, warm and contemporary, while reinforcing that Cecconi’s is a long-standing family-run business.”
To reiterate this, a wall of original black-and-white family photos appear in black steel carriageways above the new bar and open kitchen. Mollard also selected luxe timbers, dramatic mirrors and a row of Flos ‘Skygarden S’ suspension lights by Marcel Wanders. This old-and-new style fits perfectly with the Cecconi’s philosophy, as does the contemporary Murano chandelier in the private dining room.
For more gentle illumination, copper wall lights were positioned through the interior. Copper became an integral part of the restaurant—the white-wash timber tables, for instance, are embellished with copper edging.
Since the restaurant is below ground level, Mollard chose Dulux’s Antique White USA for its warm, creamy tone. “It certainly made a massive difference in lightening the space,” he explains.
The kitchen didn’t require any refurbishment so the actual build took just three months. “We didn’t disrupt service too much because a lot of the installation was done off-site, such as the upholstery and the carriageway of the bar,” says Mollard. The rest of the work took place outside of business time and over the Christmas period, when the restaurant was closed.
During the rebuild, Maria’s other request was a new cellar bar that was “timeless, European and sharp”. Marble surfaces and black bentwood chairs fitted the bill perfectly.
After completing the project two years ago, Mollard has had the opportunity to enjoy the new dining experience. “I’ve dined there quite a few times and the food has been outstanding. I’ve also had a couple of beers in the private room. It’s very hard to leave.”