Climb the rickety stairs on Meyers Place to find The Waiters Restaurant, a humble Italian restaurant that’s served Melbourne diners for more than 80 years. It started in the 1940s, as a spot where European migrant workers could come after a shift and play cards over a glass of wine. A kitchen was added in the ’50s, and by the late ’70s, Carlo and Fernanda Sabbadini took over and started serving up family recipes – often with their son Denis, who now runs the restaurant.

The chalkboard menu hasn’t changed much or wavered to trends. Denis says his dad’s minestrone, spaghetti bolognaise and veal parmigiana have all been stalwarts since the late ’70s. The family presence remains strong in the dining room too, with Denis and his daughters Nicole and Jessie running the floor. You’ll often see them ferrying out steaming plates of marinara or slow-cooked lamb shank before meeting you tableside for your drinks order. Wine-wise, you can count the options on one hand, and they come in a modest glass tumbler. The house chianti or shiraz should pair well with most of the menu.

Now, for the food. To start, it might be the crowd-favourite caprese salad with its generous lugs of balsamic. For mains, there’s plenty of pasta: ricotta ravioli swimming in rich tomato sauce, or classic carbonara with crispy bacon. Heftier meat-driven dishes might be the occasional-special osso bucco or a classic veal parmigiana, nostalgically served with simple steamed veggies and mash. It’s all about big serves and hearty flavours here. And for dessert, it’s got to be tiramisu.

The fuss-free approach extends to the space: it’s still a box of a room with white walls and wooden tables. The decor documents its heritage and long history, including with a large map of Italy, newspaper clippings, illustrations and paintings (many of which were made and gifted by devoted customers over the years).

Reservations are taken over the phone here. Or you can show up early and hope for a spot. If there’s a wait, you can always head to Bar Carlo downstairs, which is named after Denis’s father and run by his niece Alana.

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Updated: November 15th, 2023

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