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.


Lagoon Dining


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



A busy pizzeria in Carlton, like something straight out of the boot-shaped country.

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In 2018, this Euro-Japanese fine diner moved from its home in Daylesford to Carlton. We're glad it's made the move to the city. The dishes here, delivered thoughtfully across several multi-course options, are a compelling argument for fusion done the right way.

Super Ling


Sichuan tofu jaffles, elegant steak tartare and wonton-skin mille-feuille.

King & Godfree Espresso Bar


The prime corner site in Carlton is a place for low-key Italian food, gelato and coffee.



Greek and English fare by Guy Holder and Angie Giannakodakis.


Ima Project Cafe


This Japanese-Australian eatery embraces “ugly vegetables” and local art and design. The breakfast menu might involve anything from baked eggs served in a miso sugo to porridge with poached pear, sesame and mitarashi (a sweet soy syrup). If you're planning on getting the lunch special, get in early – it sells out fast.

Tanaka Co-Op


Take away toasties and sit-down cafe classics burnished with African flavours, made with produce from the kitchen gardens.

The Queensberry Pour House


A coffee house near Melbourne University with bottomless filter coffee.

A Cafe Called John


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.

DOC Espresso


A pasta and focaccia bar of venerable mention on Lygon Street in Carlton.



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


Leonardo’s Pizza Palace


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

Johnny’s Green Room


This rooftop bar is the crown jewel of the King and Godfree complex. Come here for amazing views out over Carlton and the CBD; modern Italian food and drinks; all soundtracked to Italo disco tunes.

Carlton Wine Room


The pretty Victorian building in the heart of Carlton is a modern eatery with a European-influenced menu and wine list.



A 24-hour nightclub with its very own bandroom.



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.

Lord Lygon


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




Four generations of experience gives this traditional gelato, sorbet and granita shop a leg up. Plus, its location on a (relatively) quieter part of Lygon Street means that you'll rarely have to queue here.



This place is insanely popular – anyone who's had to muscle their way past the snaking Lygon Street queues can attest to this – so anyone who's somehow not acquainted with Pidapipo may be tempted to write it off as touristy or overpriced. Don't. Pidapipo deserves every metre of the long lines it generates; the gelato here is unquestionably some of Melbourne's best.

King & Godfree Deli


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

DOC Delicatessen


Authentic Italian deli by DOC's Tony Nicolini.

La Parisienne Pâtés


Authentic French food purveyors for gourmands and gourmets alike.

The French Lettuce


Find an enchanting display of cakes at this Carlton patisserie.