On Friday, Carlton’s rollicking retro Italian diner Leonardo’s Pizza Palace is following dozens of others in response to the current coronavirus outbreak and going takeaway-only.
For now, it’s a one-night-only deal while chef-owner Nick Stanton tests the waters. With group hangs reduced to 100 or less, Stanton, like many Melbourne restaurateurs right now, still hoping to get people dining in at his 90-seat spot.
“Last night we had like three people in here, it was crazy,” he says. “Luckily our landlord today was generous enough to drop our rent, just so we can stay open.”
There are two fresh pastas – casarecce and rigatoni – and a choice of Gippsland grass-fed beef bolognaise, a pine mushroom ragu and a caponata.
“You can freeze everything, it’s got a week’s shelf life, you can stock up on it all if you want,” Stanton says. “I’m seeing these basically as pantry goods, but made with really, really good ingredients.”
There’s also a six-layer lasagne for two, and Stanton’s popular Chinese bolognaise – a dark, sticky-sweet meat sauce on thick-cut noodles carried over from his fine-dining days at Ramblr – is being resurrected.
“We’re starting with pick-up only, just so we can figure out the systems and how to do it. I don’t want to do this through Uber Eats because I’m trying to create this around giving my staff work, just to keep people working. I figure we’ll get to a point where we’re all delivering ourselves.”
In a similar vein, Attica this morning announced it’s launching takeaway – there are classic Attica dishes available but also a family-size lasagne, garlic bread and salad combo for $60 ($75 delivered) – and earlier this week Lune croissanterie added home delivery to its portfolio. Preston pizza joint Dexter has transformed into a deli, vegan shop Smith & Deli has teamed up with Northside Fruit & Veg to offer grocery boxes for pick up, Scott Pickett’s Estelle is making dinners for two to takeaway (tonight it’s slow-cooked chicken with fried eggplant and cous cous), and chef Jerry Mai’s Annam is selling freezer-ready packs of duck fried rice and roast pumpkin curry.
You can check out our frequently updated list of venues pivoting to takeaway here.
Stanton’s other restaurants, Leonard’s House of Love and Leo’s by the Slice, both in South Yarra, are trading as usual, though Leonard’s is limiting patron numbers.
“If we can get creative and try to create some kind of work, and least give people a reason to get up and not sit at home and worry, that’s what I’m trying to do,” he says. “All we can do is have fun with it, and try to make something fun out of it.
“We’re just trying to keep the vibes going as long as we can. That’s all we can do.”
The Leonardo’s takeaway menu and ordering info is online here.