Thornbury Espresso Bar was first opened in 1956 by Carmine Di Paolo, who arrived in Melbourne from Italy only a few years before. Despite his heritage, there was a bit of an American-diner feel to the space: terrazzo flooring, pinball machines a billiard table and jukebox.

A curvaceous archway separated the game-players from the coffee-drinkers, and it became a place for young Italian migrants to get together over a game of cards, or bocce on the court next door.

Fast forward 65 years and current owner Louise Zelencich has the same kind of commitment to community as Di Paolo.

There’s still a pinball machine and jukebox, and the photos hanging on the wall are a walk down memory lane. New to the space are a couple of L-shaped banquettes and a sunny, blue-walled beer garden.

Zelencich keeps the espresso bar alive in its original form on Mondays and Tuesdays, so the older patrons can still drink coffee and play cards. There are pastries from Noisette and, in a nod to the past, toasted sandwiches. Think salami or mortadella with cheese and tomato.

Now it stays open late to draw in a younger crowd. Order takeaway from nearby eateries in the evenings. To drink, you can get your spritz with Aperol, Campari, limoncello or Montenegro, and there are Espresso Martinis on tap.

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Updated: August 31st, 2023

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