There’s something special about De Vito’s Waterfront that warms your heart. It’s not just the warm welcome, the comfort of the venue, or the well-executed Italian cuisine, it’s like a well-loved song – familiar, emotive and endearing.
De Vito’s Waterfront sits on the southern edge of Southport looking across the Nerang River to Surfers Paradise. Across the sparkling water, beyond the Southport Bridge, we see the skyline of Surfers lit up at night, yet it feels so far away, as though we’re watching from another shore.
It’s a site once occupied by the De Vito family restaurant Fratelli. Like many long term residents of the Gold Coast, we have the fondest memories of David’s parents; his dad, a good singer in his own right, serenading diners as he brought pizza to the table.
It was David who won fame on Australia’s Got Talent, taking his rich tenor voice that Gold Coast audiences had loved in Opera in the Park to a wider audience, signing a contract with an international record company and touring the world for five years. Returning to the Gold Coast, in 2015 David opened the restaurant with his partner Tarscha, a country music singer.
In the refurbished acoustically enhanced De Vito’s Waterfront, David De Vito combines both of his great loves.
“I always knew I wanted to open a restaurant here,” David tells us. “I love cooking and singing.”
He talks about his first restaurant, Ciao at Labrador, which he’d opened at age 20. It had a magic of its own and, though humble, was always full. The family restaurant moved to larger premises on the Southport foreshore, and later David’s parents opened Fratelli.
While Fratelli and Ciao were well-loved for their pizza, with two other excellent chefs on board (Jasper Kuhn ex-Songbirds, and Emmanuel Colquhoun, ex-Institution Ale House) De Vito’s has added a more international approach with its focus on meat and pasta: Nonna’s recipe for Italian meatballs, the house-made pasta we see hanging in the kitchen window served with signature sauces, an emphasis on local produce, the freshest seafood and perfectly cooked meat.
The dishes we enjoy show off just that: Pan fried gnocchi with gorgonzola, gran padano and asiago, tossed with roast pumpkin, pear and pistachio; the rich Fettucine De Vito (king prawns and speck in a rosé sauce with shallots, parmesan and a touch of chilli), and Duck confit served with rosemary roasted duck fat potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and baby spinach; so perfect, we’re not surprised that it’s the house specialty!
De Vito’s makes no attempt to break culinary boundaries. It doesn’t need to. Really good Italian food will never go out of fashion. Moreover, for both the Japanese diners sitting outside overlooking the city lights and the inside party of local business people, the common language of food and music breaks down many barriers.
A truly memorable dining experience is not just about the food. ‘It’s all about the show!’ the Main Squeeze often says. To me, it’s part of the triangle of culinary success. Accompanying great food and service, the diner wants to feel embraced in an experience. On that front, De Vito’s certainly delivers. There’s a very personal touch, with David moving around the restaurant, speaking to guests at every table.
Adding to the nostalgia of place, food and history, on the hour every hour David leaves the kitchen and serenades diners with a couple of songs, sometimes with Tarscha. Diners stop (mostly), listen, before resuming their meals. It’s time apart; time to reflect and digest.
Delicious food accompanied by light opera. What’s not to love!
As the last strains of ‘The Prayer’ die away, the room is subdued, touched, before applause erupts. It’s the icing on the cake.
While De Vito Waterfront succeeds on so many fronts with its excellent location, delicious food and charming informed service, with the addition of music it adds up to so much more: a truly memorable dining experience.
2 Barney Street, Southport Ph: 1300 338 486 or 07 5532 8376
Open: Dinner Mon, Wed – Sun 5pm – 10pm; Lunch Wed 12noon – 3pm; Sun 7am – 4pm