The Cellar Bar
When Milanese Pietro Grossi immigrated to Melbourne in 1960, he had his first drink at The Cellar Bar. Now his son Guy owns it, plus three other Italian eateries at the top end of Bourke Street.
The former 1900s wine shop is the most casual member of the family. Wrought iron chandeliers illuminate the dark wood interior with warm light. Intimate circular granite tables are tightly packed and tall leather-upholstered stools line a bar that runs down one side of the room.
Open early for breakfast and through dinner until late, this eatery makes remarkable mood transformations. There's an energetic breakfast rush, a boisterous lunch hour, followed by late afternoon espressos that are taken over by romantic tables for two and four by nightfall.
During peak dining hours, the wholesome aroma of stewing Roma tomatoes and freshly cooked pasta fills the air. Attentive waiters tout the daily specials, which are also scribbled on blackboards and usually include classic Italian dishes such as spaghetti bolognese, veal cotoletta or hearty bruschetta. Do as the Italians do and order a glass of wine with your meal - there's a long list of Australian and European labels to choose from.
Though more modest than Grossi’s neighbouring restaurants (Florentino Grill next door, Grossi Florentino upstairs and even Ombra Salumi), The Cellar Bar shows how simple Italian food can comfort at any time of day.