We do Italian pretty well in Melbourne, and so we should. We are as entwined with Italian food culture as we are with Anglo roasts, good Chinese dumplings and sleek salmon sashimi. But the straight-up comfort of Italian food keeps us coming back.
Is it the garlic, the onion, the tomato? The prosciutto, capocollo, the salami? The pizza, the pasta, the risotto? It could just be the lot.
We take a look at some of our favourite Italian venues around the city
Pietro Barbagallo is the pied piper of pizza. From his days at Brunswick’s I Carusi, to Babagallo Trattoria in the city, and, most recently, to his steady Carlton venue with mismatched furniture and a simple, straightforward menu. He cooks, we follow.
19 Lincoln Square South Carlton
It’s been more than 10 years since Ladro in Fitzroy stole our attention with smart wood-fired pizzas, simple pastas and an ever-changing roast of the day. The second venue in Prahran is changing its tack with Ladro Tap, increasing the beer selection and cutting down on packaging. But the simple Italian ethos moves through both businesses. The Badabing pizza (with pork sausage, chilli and basil) is copied throughout the city.
224 Gertrude Street Fitzroy
162 Greville Street Prahran
The historic building on Bourke Street that houses Grossi Florentino, and the Grossi family who own and run it, are instrumental to Melbourne-Italian culture. Pasta in the Cellar Bar, Bistecca di Fiorentina in the Grill or a studied multi-course experience in the breathtaking mural room are pieces of a delicious puzzle. 80 Bourke Street Melbourne
An unassuming dining room in the enclave of North Melbourne, Sosta has been feeding locals since it opened in 2007. It’s an all-rounder, offering paper-thin San Daniele ham with buffalo mozzarella; classic pastas such as pappardelle with slow-cooked lamb; and gnocchi in burnt sage butter. Main courses are hearty – perhaps Flinders Island goat, baked with fennel and white wine, or pan-fried blue eye fillet with fregola, capers and raisins.
12 Errol Street North Melbourne
New CBD pasta bar Tipo 00 grabbed our attention very quickly. The owner-operators, Luke Skidmore and chefs Andreas Papadakis and Alberto Fava, have years of experience at great dining rooms, including at Vue de Monde. The trio’s octopus terrine with Vin Santo jelly got people talking when the venue first opened. But it’s the pasta that’s the show-stopper: spaghetti with clams and smoked tomato; a traditional Pugliese dish of orecchiette with broccoli, anchovy, garlic and chilli; and braised-duck gnocchi have all made it a favourite with Melbourne diners.
361 Little Bourke Street CBD
Tony Nicolini and his team charm crowds with pastas, pizzas and a good dose of Euro-sass. There’s the pizzeria on the corner of Faraday and Drummond Streets, Carl-ton, as well as outlets in Albert Park and Mornington. The menus are all about fresh mozzarella, salumi and pizza, wines from all over Italy and a goat’s cheese tiramisu that needs to be tasted. Round it out with a limoncello and buon appetito.
Gemma Simply Italian Pizza & Gnocchi Bar
Chef Alessandro Bollini learned his craft in his native Naples, but got to Melbourne via New Zealand, making pizzas in Auckland. Just two years ago Bollini opened an Italian restaurant in Carlton. Is he crazy? Some may think so, but his pizzas are so good he’s been thriving in Melbourne’s Italian heartland.
183 Elgin Street Carlton
Ronnie Di Stasio’s restaurant is beyond being labelled. Yes, it’s very Italian, yes, it’s very Melbourne. But the Bill Henson artwork; the handmade pastas, braised wild boar and fresh lobster; the honeyed lighting; the intelligent, anticipatory service; the purring of the crowd – it’s just very Di Stasio.
31 Fitzroy Street St Kilda