It may have just opened in August, but Hotel Lombardo – sitting in a stretch of shops on Sydney Road, just north of the Moreland Road intersection – feels like it’s been there forever.

It could be the vintage plates straight out of Nonna’s cupboard, on which to slap down slices of a saucy pizza pie, or the nostalgic black-and-white snapshots of 1970s New York and retro timber panelling on the walls. Maybe it’s the chequerboard carpet, or the in-demand pool table and glimmering disco ball hovering above it. Either way, this moodily lit pizza joint already feels lived in (impressive, given it was, until recently, a stark-white commercial bakery), with an aesthetic that takes inspiration from New York dive bars and your Italian uncle’s pool room. And we’re into the results.

“It’s definitely a mashup of everything I’ve loved in my twenties and thirties, but primarily it’s inspired by your traditional Brooklyn dive [bar],” owner Travis Lombardo tells Broadsheet. “And for the beer garden, I thought we’d go the other way and make it a traditional Aussie beer garden, to match the sunshine.

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“The main thing I was looking for is comfort – that when you walk in you feel comfortable.”

The Melburnian spent the past decade living in Brooklyn, where he worked as a fashion photographer and clocked time at hospo venues like the boisterous Bushwick nightclub House of Yes and the eclectic Lower East Side bar, nightclub, bandroom and restaurant Pianos. Lombardo describes the latter as “a melting pot of everyone in New York”, an effect he’s keen to replicate at his new spot.

“I always took note of venues that had great energy and tried to understand why I felt good in there,” says Lombardo, who also name-checks NY hotspots Roberta’s and Via Carota as inspiration.

When Broadsheet visits, the place is packed with diners of many stripes – huddled in intimate booths, perched on bar stools and sprawled out in the beer garden, which is dressed up with snaking greenery and, after dark, twinkling fairy lights.

“That’s what I was always fascinated by when I’d go out in New York – you’d hang out with a 70-year-old and a 20-year-old in the same night and no one would seem to bat an eyelid, or wonder why they’re hanging out,” says Lombardo. “I’d like to think we’re getting all ages and all different backgrounds in the venue, and I think that contributes to the approachable energy as well.”

Start your meal with a pre-pizza snack of plump ‘nduja arancini, say, or a plate of deli meats with peppers, before moving to the main event: the 72-hour-fermented pies. The classically floppy base and puffy, leopard-spotted crust is a light, chewy vehicle for Italo-American toppings, including the spicy Picante with ‘nduja, sopressa, peppers and stringy mozzarella; a classic pepperoni; and the Calypso Mortadelle with red sauce, crisped up mortadella, pineapple and mozzarella drizzled with golden syrup.

To drink, go for an on-theme Americano or Negroni (soon on tap) or a glass of rich and creamy Guinness – an unexpected crowd favourite, says Lombardo.

Please note that Hotel Lombardo will be closed between 24 December 2022 and 4 January 2023. On weekends throughout summer, the venue will open earlier, from 2pm.

Hotel Lombardo
11–13 Sydney Road, Coburg

Hours:
Wed & Thu 5pm–late
Fri & Sat 4pm–1am
Sun 4pm–late

@hotellombardo

This article was originally published on 20 October 2022. It has been updated to reflect summer 2022-2023 closures and hours.