It’s hard to ignore the striking beams of light and shade cast from half-closed venetian blinds during afternoons at Lagotto, a new all-day Italian diner from siblings Katie and Michael McCormack (of Milieu Hospitality, also behind Congress and Future Future).
Follow those strips of sunlight along the 50-seat space (there are another 20 seats outside) and you’ll find colourful Italian mid-century flourishes by Flack Studio (Monk House Design, Entrecote, Gabriel). An obvious standout is the marble: a long white calacatta marble bar dominates the room, pink terrazzo flooring is inlaid with geometric marble tiles, and a deep-burgundy Indian Lavento marble staircase takes you downstairs to the bathrooms. “It was really about creating a space that felt like it belonged in the community,” says designer David Flack, who was inspired by the work of Italian architect Gio Ponti.
And Lagotto does feel like it belongs, even though the chic eatery, smack bang on the border between Carlton North and North Fitzroy, is beneath a new apartment development (owned by Milieu Property, of which Michael is co-owner). There’s a sense it’s been there a while. It fits. In the lead-up to opening, Katie and Michael ran a pop-up on the building site for six months, getting a sense of what locals felt the area needed.
"Are we going to do a cafe? Are we going to do a restaurant? But then we thought, ‘Is there a possibility of doing both?’” Katie says. “The thing with Italian is it does all-day really well. Grab your espresso, grab your Negroni. That's how Lagotto was formed; the neighbourhood has definitely been waiting for it.”
Head chef David Fisher (formerly sous chef at The Grand in Richmond) mans the kitchen. For breakfast, there’s cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) eggs with pancetta; cured trout with peas, mint and ricotta; grilled sardines with a bight salsa verde; and a slightly tangy sheep’s yoghurt panna cotta with pear and al forno (oven-baked) muesli.
For lunch, a heartier selection of Italian stalwarts come in the form of veal cotoletta with slaw; gnocchi Bolognese; and osso buco with soft, buttery polenta. Salads include cauliflower, chickpea, parsley, preserved lemon and almonds. And kale and cabbage with radish and peas.
Later still, an aperitivo menu offers light, share-friendly options for evening, such as Italian and locally sourced charcuterie (try the capocollo, a dry-cured pork salumi, from Mr Cannubi in Victoria); Western Port kingfish crudo with fennel and orange, (thoughtfully paired with a lively northern Italian soave); and caponata with soft chunks of torn buffalo mozzarella on top.
A grocery section stocks everything from homemade preserved vegetables, Italian olive oil, imported quick polenta and cold cans of Peroni Red to ready meals such as chicken cacciatore. You can also pick up a blend of Italian-style coffee roasted at the Abbotsford coffee incubator Bureaux Collective.
The drinks list, by head barman Perryn Collier, includes a smart selection of imported and locally produced Italian digestives and aperitivos. Okar Applewood Amaro comes from the Adelaide Hills, and a classic-style vermouth by Maidenii is from central Victoria. There are just four Italian-leaning cocktails on the list, including a seasonal spritz (right now it’s Cocchi Americano Rosa, prosecco, lemon thyme and rhubarb).
Sweet options stick to the classics. McCormack is particularly proud of the Sicilian-style cannoli – an orange, ricotta and chocolate creation inspired by a recipe from the late Italian chef, cookbook author, television personality and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio. It’s crunchy and flaky, rich and sweet, all at once.
1 York Street, North Fitzroy
Sun to Wed 7am–7pm
Thu to Sat 7am–late