Arno Italian Espresso Bar

A two-person table, eight stools and a coffee machine tucked under a flight of stairs. It’s small, simple and not commonplace in Melbourne’s coffee scene, but that’s exactly the way owner Léon Dalle Nogare envisioned Arno Espresso. He wanted to recreate a traditional Italian espresso bar with good, friendly service, consistently great coffee and no frills.

Dalle Nogare had eight years of management experience at D.O.C Carlton under Tony Nicolini, and stints at Brunetti and Sarti.

This experience, combined with a panino-bar crawl around Florence, is what inspired him to go solo. The name references his trip: the Arno River runs through the centre of Florence.

The small space has a sleek, crisp design that uses black, white and dark green. Customers spill out onto the Cromwell Street footpath.

The menu is geared toward takeaway meals: a variety of panini and toasties; salads; a Bircher muesli; and sweet pastries and cakes. In keeping with the theme the sourdough and ciabatta is described by Dalle Nogare as “strictly Italian”. It is from Essendon bakery, Pane e Pizzico. There’s also a selection of its bombolini and cornetti.

Try the Chicken Cotoletta panini – it’s filled with chicken schnitzel and Italian-style coleslaw. You’ll have to get in early, though – they fly out the door.