Sandwiched between a Pizza Hut and a kids art school in Balwyn, Little Nonna is a 60-seat Italian cafe by old school friends Louis Nuccitelli and Paul Lacarruba. The pair transformed this former takeaway joint in just 11 days, retaining its hole-in-the-wall status by keeping the large open window at the front.
On the other side of that window, velvet couches and vintage posters gussy up the main dining room. A long concrete bench supports an espresso machine pumping out Proud Mary’s Humbler blend, while the timber shelves behind hold a Luciano Pavarotti record and vintage coffee cups from the 1960s, purchased by Louis’s great-grandmother and Little Nonna’s namesake, Adelina. There’s an intimate space for group bookings downstairs, plus an outdoor courtyard where tomato plants grow happily beside the dining tables.
Menus are handwritten and photocopied on plain paper – a bit of a red herring considering these dishes were created by former Vue de Monde chef Sean Henley. Highlights include the Gabagool, featuring salumi, two types of cheese (supplied by That’s Amore) and antipasto, and a generous bowl of pork-and-veal ragu. Both are served on stylish thrift-shop crockery.
Nonna’s takeaway panini became so popular during Melbourne’s lockdown, they’re here to stay. Expect at least five options on the board – our pick is the Chicken Cotoletta, with lettuce, house pickles, cheese and Nonna’s secret sauce.
Wines are also available, though they do vary. You’ll just have to ask what’s in Nonna’s cupboards on the day.