“A dear friend asked me to host her birthday dinner party at my house,” says founder Joey Kellock. “I had to think about a dish I could fit the most love into and lasagne was the one.” Following celebrations, he took the remaining lasagne to friends around town, discovering he enjoyed the delivery experience as much as they did. Six years later, 1800 Lasagne slings classic Italian comfort food alongside beer, wine and cocktails – whether by delivery or its Thornbury storefront.
From that fateful dinner party to a packed-out restaurant – and just general love of feasts (he’s been known to cook Christmas dinner a few times a year simply because it’s one of his favourite things to eat). Kellock knows his way around hosting. He likens the process to preparing his signature dish.
“In the same way I treat every element of my lasagne with the most love and attention and consideration, anyone hosting a dinner party should think about all the elements that go into that experience,” he says. “Lighting, music, tableware, food, decor, everything.”
While lasagne is a big communal crowd-pleaser, it’s not the only option. Kellock says Italian braises like osso buco can be a centrepiece dish around which to curate lots of smaller dishes. Saluting both his Italian and Latvian heritage, he says roasting a lemony Sicilian-style chicken with vegetables can work just as much as Latvian sauerkraut.
Building a vibe
Beyond the food itself, you’ll need to think about seating. “Usually you’re the common denominator,” says Kellock. “So the responsibility is on you to work out the chemistry of the guests.” The right music helps: Kellock’s personal sweet spot starts with jazz before moving into jazz-adjacent tunes from Melbourne artists like 30/70 and Horatio Luna. In fact, music is so integral to Kellock’s dinner vibe that he’s planning to have locals like Josh Kelly and Don Glori play live jazz at 1800 Lasagne over summer.
When asking people what to bring, Kellock doesn’t go for the potluck approach. As host he wants to supply everything himself, so he asks guests to bring a smile and maybe some drinks. “But I’ve probably already decided what you’re drinking,” he says, with a laugh. “So you might end up leaving with whatever you bring.” His go-to before dinner drink includes a twist on the Aperol Spritz. “It’s the perfect prelude or intro to any dinner party,” says Kellock.
Kellock chooses dessert like he does musical selections. “I just think about my favourites around town for inspiration,” he says. “The “tipomisu” from Tipo 00 is something that keeps me awake at night. The semifreddo from Supermaxi: oh my god. And I love the panna cotta from Umberto Espresso Bar.”
But his favourite dessert of all is simply handmade mascarpone – the soft Italian cheese – served with fresh berries. It’s something he had for the first time in Bologna, and he’s been gifting that sumptuous experience to friends ever since. “Pass it around,” he says, “and watch everyone’s eyes roll back.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Aperol. With 100,000 Aperol Spritzes up for grabs this summer to help celebrate being together again, find out how to claim yours.