Carlton will forever be associated with Italy. Italians made the suburb their own in the wake of World War II, bringing pizza, pasta, prosciutto and any number of other then-exotic foodstuffs with them. Melbourne would be a much more boring place today, had they stayed put.

Until the late ’90s, quaint, veranda-lined Lygon Street was undeniably the best place in town to experience these cultural riches, much as Victoria Street is for Vietnamese food today. There are still excellent spots such as D.O.C., Tiamo, Scopri and Kaprica, but if you're not careful, you might end up at a restaurant with a picture menu.

The cafe scene – again, kickstarted by Italian immigrants – is in better shape, partly thanks to the huge student population from nearby RMIT and University of Melbourne. Their presence gives Carlton a relaxed yet busy feel, with plenty of apartment buildings among the well-maintained terrace houses. It’s a great suburb to fritter away an afternoon, catching a movie at Cinema Nova; browsing the shelves at Readings; taking a walk through Carlton Gardens; or seeing what’s on at Melbourne Museum.

Restaurants

Lagoon Dining

Restaurant

Take a seat at the black granite bar for pork and chive dumplings, popcorn chicken with togarashi and cured pork belly with rolled rice noodles in XO.

Hakata Gensuke Carlton

Restaurant

Looking to avoid the lines at the original, which set the gold standard for Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen in Melbourne? Head to Carlton.

Taquito

Restaurant

This Mexican eatery makes its own tortillas and grows its own chillies and herbs. To drink, there’s wine on tap or you can buy mezcal from the in-house bottle shop.

Capitano

Restaurant

Approachable, unfussy American-Italian food with fine-dining pedigree.

TuanTuan

Restaurant

A Hong Kong style eatery from the founders of Chinatown’s Dessert Kitchen, serving creamy congee, Macanese dishes, and sweet and savoury snow buns.

Shinbashi Yakiniku

Restaurant

An all-you-can-eat Japanese barbeque joint where you’ll be cooking wagyu over the coals and sipping ice-cold matcha beer.

Cafes

Ima Project Cafe

Cafe

This Japanese-Australian eatery embraces “ugly vegetables” and local art and design.

A Cafe Called John

Cafe

This eatery is all red terrazzo, tan leather and natural light, with the occasional retro nod. It’s serving simple eggs on toast, generous vegan salads, house-made pies and old-fashioned Cherry Ripe milkshakes.

Parco

Cafe

Dench pastries, Coffee Supreme lattes and al fresco dining, all in a former power substation.

Vertue Coffee Roasters

Cafe

Carlton's shyest roastery and cafe is hidden down a laneway.

St Charly

Cafe

A lively brunch spot that takes inspiration from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Le Miel et la lune

Cafe

A honeymoon-worthy cafe.

Bars

Colour

Bar

A 24-hour nightclub with its very own bandroom.

Agostino

Bar

A modern take on the classic Italian enoteca, a 50-seat wine bar with house-made pasta, hard-to-find wines and waiters clad in head-to-toe white Japanese denim in an iconic heritage-listed building.

Leonardo’s Pizza Palace

Bar

A rollicking good-times pizzeria from the Leonard's House of Love crew.

Lord Lygon

Bar

Settle in at the red marble bar with a biodynamic wine and a plate of bourbon-and-Coke lamb ribs.

Prince Alfred Hotel Carlton

Bar

This is a student watering hole welcoming to all because its pleasures are pub classics: Toss the Boss, parmas and bottomless pancakes.

Johnny’s Green Room

Bar

A rooftop bar with amazing views, serving modern Italo drinks and snacks.

Shops

King & Godfree Deli

Shop

A food emporium with a history of bringing Italian food to Australians since 1884.

Pidapipo

Shop

A gelataria that serves sweet brioche, has a chocolate tap and does affogato Italian style.

La Parisienne Pâtés

Shop

Authentic French food purveyors for gourmands and gourmets alike.

The French Lettuce

Shop

Find an enchanting display of cakes at this Carlton patisserie.

D.O.C. Delicatessen

Shop

Authentic Italian deli by D.O.C.'s Tony Nicolini.

Found Sound

Shop

A music-gear nerd’s dream.