L’Artista, Belconnen

Zeffirelli’s on Chandler Street in Belconnen was an institution – but one of those that we took for granted as always being there, and never really frequented. It turns out a few people must’ve taken it for granted, because it closed down back in February. For months we’ve been wondering what – if anything – would fill the big space it left. The answer is L’Artista.


L’Artista opened on Wednesday, so we’re there on its second night. At 6.30 there are six tables filled in the brightly lit and freshly painted space (which has kept Zeff’s tiled floors).


The large floor to ceiling windows are mostly kept, but a big chunk of the street view is obscured by a bar. Curiously, the bar has tap beers I’ve never heard of, which grabs my attention: Blue Moon, Alehouse and Pressman’s Cider.

Beers on tap at L'Artista

Beers on tap at L’Artista

If you’re wondering, they’re all part of Coca Cola portfolio: Blue Moon’s a wheat beer by Coors/Miller served with a slice of orange, Alehouse is a pale draught ale, and Pressman’s cider is … well, apple cider. You know how Yellow Tail (huge in the USA) is owned by Casella? They seem to be part of the arrangement. (Sidenote: Rekorderlig has – or was set to – join(ed) the portfolio, too.) I don’t know if I’m selling out, but I really like both beers. A lot.


Pints of Blue Moon (back left) ($8) and Ale House ($7)


ANYWAY. The space is clean but it just feels a bit unfinished or empty – and not because it’s not packed. There’s a big, blank wall at the back, and the kitchen faces the dining area without a lot going on, and there’s quite a big area to pay. A few more people might help, but I’d love to see a bit more on the walls, and even a few things – plants? – on the floors to break it up a little.

The menu is decent, and it’s difficult to choose between traditional and more gourmet pizzas, pasta, burgers, grilled steak and chicken breast or osso bucco. See for yourself here.

Boyfriend chooses the Moroccan chicken burger ($18), our guest goes with the osso bucco ($24) and I have to see if their gourmet pizza makes the grade ($19 for medium size Dolce Vita).

But first, we’re hungry, and we opt for the pesto and parmesan dough balls ($8 for four).

Pesto and parmesan dough balls, with garlic butter ($8)

Pesto and parmesan dough balls, with garlic butter ($8)

The dough balls aren’t what I expect: they’re light, fluffy and packed with pesto flavour. These aren’t like donuts or densely packed; they’re like little balls of garlic or pesto bread. I like them!

Pesto and parmesan dough balls

Pesto and parmesan dough balls

Bar area, with beers on tap, and bottled beers, including Asahi

Bar area, with beers on tap, and bottled beers, including Asahi

Cute (er, maybe that's not the right word) bathroom signs!

Cute (er, maybe that’s not the right word) bathroom signs!

The front of house host does a round mid-way through asking how each table is going.

Osso bucco ($24)

Osso bucco ($24)

The osso bucco is huge! The meat – the most important part of the dish! – is excellent. The root vegetables are a little underdone, and the mashed potato isn’t the best our guest has ever had, but at $24 it’s hearty, filling and tasty, and he’s not disappointed.

Moroccan lamb burger with steak fries and salad (coleslaw) ($18)

Moroccan lamb burger with steak fries and salad (coleslaw) ($18)

Boyfriend reports that his (huge!) chicken breast is tender between a crusty bun. The steak fries hadn’t been boiled enough before they were cut and fried, yet the seasoning and frying is spot on. (But a tub of aioli or other sauce would satisfy the Manu in all of us!)

Prosciutto, gorgonzola and sauteed mushroom pizza, with bechamel base and mozzarella ($19)

Prosciutto, gorgonzola and sauteed mushroom pizza, with bechamel base and mozzarella ($19)

My pizza is excellent! The flavours of the gorgonzola and prosciutto marry beautifully atop the bechamel base; it’s very moreish, and easy to polish off. The mushrooms – while tasty – are a little superfluous, and the texture doesn’t add a lot. I pick the mushrooms off; I’d love the pizza to be sprinkled with the basil instead of it being used as decoration.

It’s difficult to get a real sense of what L’Artista’s about, but the food is hot, high quality and reasonably priced. It’s kid-, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian friendly, and Coca-Cola portfolio or not, it’s fun to try new beers. I look forward to seeing what happens next (particularly with their bare walls!).


Date: Thursday, 8 May 2014

Where: 5 Chandler Street, Belconnen

Cost: $98 for three, including three pints, one wine, three mains, and an entree

Value for money: Medium-high

Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile

Want more? Try their website (and I’m told their Facebook page will be live very soon!).

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  1. I had the misfortune
    On Mothers Day eve to collect 2 takeaways from this so called restaurant.
    I was disgusted!!!!
    The dishes that had been ordered were an Alfredo ( $24,) and a Lasagne ($23).
    the total came to $47.
    when I was given the dishes I commented that this couldn’t be my order as it looked more like somebodies doggy bag scraps!
    I was assured that these were in fact my ordered dishes.
    I asked to speak to the manager and commented on the size of the dishes for the price, as they were so small, they ressembled leftovers.
    the lasagne was served in a 200ml round container and the alfredo was in a small oblong takeaway container…for $23 and $24 these sizes were disgraceful! …given the price!
    they were not even the size of an entrĂ©e. I was handed the dishes , and I asked if they could be put in a bag in case they spill or drip. No that wasn’t possible as they were a new restaurant and didn’t have any bags available. So I asked if I could then wrap them in a serviette, as none had been offered to suffice. I was given one only which barely covered the 2 dishes.
    The manager did not flinch when I questioned the size of the dishes for the price and gladly took my money.
    I told him I would not be back and would be telling my friends about the small amount of food for the horrendously outrageous price!!
    A new restaurant needs to go out of its way to extend the hand of welcome to gather and nurture its clientele not to rip them off!!!
    So my advice is…don’t waste your money here….go where you will get value for money!..and a smile!

    • You shouldn’t have paid. If I was that unhappy with it and complained but was treated like that I would have just left without paying (or taking the meal).

      They obviously don’t realise that Canberra is a place with a lot of choice and there are plenty of good places around.

      I will now also be avoiding this place and will pass on your experience to others I know.

      • I have both dined in and had takeaways at this restaurant since it has reoped as L’Artista. I have found the standard of food and services to be very good and was impressed with the value for money. The night i dined in it was quite busy and everyone seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves which provided a great dining experience. The guests I dined with were also impressed and we will all be returning very soon.

  2. Maryanne you sound like you work at L’Artista (or are a family member of the owner). That “review” of yours needs to be removed by Tara I think…

  3. I have dined in L’artista twice since it has opened I will be returning! The atmosphere is friendly and chilled and the staff were very attentive. I had the ossc bucco (veal shank) with roasted vegetables and mash and it was to die for. The meat was so tender it just fell off the bone, the vegetables were perfectly cooked with a nice crunch and the mash was light and fluffy. Come hungry as the portion was substantial! To drink I had the Belgian beer Blue Moon which was served with a slice of orange, It complemented my meal perfectly, it was subtlety sweet and not too heavy to have with red meat. On the second occasion we shared garlic pizza bread to start which was thin, fresh and crunch and not too greasy. It was the perfect amount for three people to share as an appetiser. I had the lasagne for my main and it was beautifully presented in a rounded ceramic dish with a colourful salad on the side. The cheese on top was stringy and delicious without overpowering the dish or being too greasy. The pasta was soft and flavoursome it literally melted in the mouth! The secret I think was in the bolognaise sauce- it had such a robust tomato flavour. Management has given new life to this eatery- take me back!!!

    • Vic, you sound like you work there also…

      Tara, how about removing posts that are obviously from staff/relations of this place?

  4. I picked up a takeaway pizza from L’Artista on Monday night. Service was good, the pizza was made quickly and was pretty tasty (a Spicy Meatlover for anyone wondering).

    I feel there is something a bit inorganic about both the above negative and positive comments. I’d suggest that people try it out to see what their feelings are.

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