A few two-person tables, eight stools and a coffee machine tucked under a flight of stairs. It’s small, simple and not commonplace in Melbourne, but that’s exactly the way owner Léon Dalle Nogare 
envisioned Arno Espresso.

“I wanted to recreate a traditional Italian espresso bar with good, friendly service, consistently great coffee and no fancy frills,” says Dalle Nogare. Dalle Nogare has had eight years management experience at D.O.C Carlton under Tony Nicolini, and stints at Brunetti and Sarti.

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

In its past life Arno Espresso existed as Tiny. The structures of the long, narrow space are the same. The light wood and yellow accents have been subbed out for a sleeker, crisper design that uses black, white and dark green. Customers spill out onto the Cromwell Street footpath.

After a few weeks of coffee-machine malfunctions (Dalle Nogare was throwing out every third coffee he made) he's just welcomed “the Ferrari of all coffee machines”, a new La Marzocco.

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.

Arno Espresso
51 Cromwell Street, Collingwood

Mon to Fri 7.30am–4pm