Sunlight floods the front bar of Il Caminetto, drenching the imported Italian terrazzo-tiled bar and woodfire oven with light. But follow the trail of bentwood chairs and dark wooden tables to the dining room beyond and the contrast is dramatic. The darkened space is lit by a couple of timber-framed windows, a handful of pendant lights, and strip lighting spilling out from under mirrors than run the length of the room. In tones of grey, navy and ivory, with stippled plaster walls and curved archways, the room strikes that satisfying balance between moody and cosy.

The corner pizzeria is by owners Lorenzo Tron, Roberto Davoli, head chef Piero Roldo and pizzaiolo Alessandro Todisco. Tron and wife Teresa’s recent trip to the ancient town of Matera in southern Italy inspired the design. Matera is known for its limestone caves, which – as well as inspiring the aesthetic visually – are symbolic of rebirth, fitting for the revival of the longstanding eatery.

Il Caminetto (“little fireplace” in Italian) has been in the area for at least 18 years – Tron keeps a photo of a printed review by Matt Preston from 2001 on hand – but it’s had a slew of different owners in that time.

“We had to change everything,” Tron says. “The only thing we kept was the name because we wanted to embrace the history of the place.”

Stuzzichini (starters) include creamy cheese polenta topped with porcini mushrooms, and soft stracciatella cheese with oven baked tomatoes, basil, Grana Padano and fried strips of pizza dough.

The pizza dough is rested for 72 hours and made using Italian stone-milled Petra flour, making for a light, fluffy and easy-to-digest crust. Find traditional margherita, capriciosa and Hawaiian pies alongside more boundary-pushing varieties such as umami-heavy boscaiola with stracciatella cheese, nduja paste, porcini mushrooms, thinly sliced speck and truffle oil. Or mozzarella, scamorza (smoked mozzarella), Italian sausage and friarelli (rapini). Vegan and gluten-free options are also available, including the vegan Notella calzone.

“We try to step it back,” Tron says. “Simplicity. Very good, few ingredients.”

Pasta is homemade by Roldo (formerly of now-closed St Kilda eatery Itali.co) and includes tortelli generously stuffed with potato, leek and king mushrooms; and potato gnocchi with asparagus, pumpkin cream and smoked ricotta. Gluten-free pasta comes from Thomastown’s Ardor Food Co.

Tron says given how long the restaurant has been around, many locals have visited just to see the new space.

“They come in, check the place out and see that they like the vibe,” he says. Then he’ll convince them to grab a seat at that sun-drenched front bar for a Negroni or an Aperol spritz, peruse the menu, and settle in for a few hours.

Il Caminetto
114 Pascoe Vale Road, Moonee Ponds
(03) 9370 6884

Hours:
Mon to Thu 5pm–9.30pm
Fri to Sun 11.30am–9.30pm