Molto bene, graze—you can never eat enough pizza, pasta or buffalo mozzarella.
Melbourne is well-known for its Italian eateries. Given the world’s best Margherita once came from Australia’s 400 Gradi there’s no better place to stop and smell fresh pizza dough, balsamic glaze on a Caprese salad or taste an al dente pasta paired with the perfect drop. The best Italian eateries is a well-contested list with many applicants. We know Melbourne culture revolves around what’s hot and new, however, there are a few Italian spots that are timeless, and deserve the credit they are owed. What makes a great pasta these days? Is it outlandish sauces paired with the correct type of pasta? Is it new and improved versions of old starters, bruschetta, salumi or mozzarella? Or is it a Melbourne thing to worry about the presentation of the food?
These are all valid questions. To many, pasta and sauce boils down to taste. If your nonna has anything to do with it, the camera doesn’t matter, it’s all about the melting in your mouth sensation, the first taste of a meatball soaked in Napoli sauce. For some Melbourne eateries, this is what it’s all about. For others, it’s about the hashtag and the share on Instagram.
Whether it’s tucked away in a side alley or easy for you to locate in Carlton, Italians know how to light up Melbourne any time of the year with tantalising pasta, delectable pizza and never enough entrees. Here’s how the definitive Italian dining list is looking leading into the new year.
400 Gradi Brunswick
Johnny Di Francesco is ‘the pizza man’ and 400 Gradi is his institution. When it comes to what to eat, the obvious is the Margherita. Given the world’s best Margherita was made by Johnny, there’s no reason to look over it. However, all the pizzas at 400 Gradi have stood the test of time, even in Melbourne.
Where: 99 Lygon St, Brunswick East VIC 3057
What to order: Margherita
Guy Grossi’s church happens to be located in Melbourne’s CBD. Florentino reminds us of a famous NYC Italian joint. The meal you’ll be served is the kind of meal you want to take your time-devouring, but if you’re scarce for time around midday, there’s the Veloce quick lunch menu for fast city diners. While the Italian eatery serves the perfect main, it’s the dessert you’ll want to stay for.
Where: 80 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
What to order: Grossi Florentino’s tiramisu
Fresh pasta – rigatoni, spaghetti, casarecce et al – and sauces such as Wagyu bolognese, rabbit ragu and a simple tomato sugo. Sound good? Of course, it does, and Tipo 00 is the place to dine during any season in Melbourne. Andreas Papadakis the famous chef– last seen in the kitchen at Vue De Monde is serving up signature dishes going viral on Instagram. The best sellers include al dente asparagus and sage tortelloni oozing with Parmesan sauce, squid-ink tagliolini and flawlessly smooth gnocchi with porcini mushrooms and braised duck, the latter sourced directly from Gippsland.
Where: 361 Little Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
What to order: Al dente asparagus and sage tortelloni oozing with Parmesan sauce
Casey Wall, Manu Potoi and Michael Bascetta, who own Bar Liberty are behind this Italian-American eatery. There’s really no question you’ll enjoy what you choose, the options are endless. Shaved prosciutto (made in Ballarat), as well as cheese pizza with pecorino, fresh and aged mozzarella, are noteworthy orders for when you make the trip to Capitano.
Where: 421 Rathdowne St, Carlton VIC 3053
What to order: Cheese pizza with pecorino, fresh and aged mozzarella
Situated in a basement on Melbourne’s most famous laneway, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane is a modern-day classic Italian restaurant, influenced by its heritage from the countries north. The Bortolotto family has been part of the Melbourne hospitality industry for the past 40 years and Cecconi’s is a Melbourne staple, if you haven’t eaten there, you aren’t from there. Classic Venetian made to perfection.
Where: 61 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
What to order: Signature seafood linguine
Now, this is the hottest place in Melbourne right now. Instagram famous influencers have sought this place out as a who is who of Melbourne sort of thing. The food tastes just as good as it looks. Joe Mammone the famous chef behind Il Bacaro transformed this former Carousel Ice Cream store into a little piece of Venice.
Where: 44 Toorak Rd, South Yarra VIC 3141
What to order: Wild barramundi
Caffe e Cucina
Okay, if there was ever a godfather of Italian eateries it’s this slice of Italy, well… Melbourne more like it. The Cucina is a masterpiece that has withstood the very turbulent rent raises, and depletion of South Yarra’s Chapel Street. The pasta is perfect, the service is fantastic, however, it is a little small, so bookings are hard to come by. By day this place can be seen as a corporate hangout and by night an awesome second date spot. Pricing would dictate a first date here to be a little much.
Where: 581 Chapel St, South Yarra VIC 3141
What to order: Linguine di mare, risotto
What started from nothing has surely become one of Melbourne’s hotly contested best prosciutto pizzas in town. The DOC focus is on imported ingredients and the best-of-the-best for quality. The prosciutto melts in your mouth, the base is thin and the cheese is soft. You can’t seem to go past DOC for all things prosciutto.
What to order: San daniele prosciutto pizza
Neil Perry’s third restaurant at Crown Casino is a gem. We love Rockpool bar and Grill as well as Spice Temple, but Rosetta has a significant Italian spark with a very Neil Perry style. It really is a tasting sensation, a blast for the senses as Perry experiments with a menu travelling through all parts of Italy. Choices from the region include agnolotti with roasted rabbit, veal and pork tucked inside; and ‘gnudi’ – spinach and ricotta dumplings with gorgonzola fondue and candied walnuts. Given it is Neil Perry, we have chosen to feature Rosetta’s Cape Grim grass-fed bistecca Fiorentina for two.
What to order: Cape Grim grass-fed bistecca Fiorentina for two.
Okay, here’s the fine dining experience not many are after, but it is the one you need. Carolina Group’s stable of restaurants has Includes Bar Carolina, however, this remains the godfather of the Carolina dining experience. White cloth tables, polished service and fine food make this a real contender for anyone trying to find a Michelin star. For seafood enthusiasts who love Italian there’s a wide arrangement of red prawns with roe, seared kingfish, oysters with cucumber granita, plus tuna and scallops. If you are dining here and you wish to eat the best seafood with an Italian twist, you’ll know what to order below.
What to order: Moreton Bay bug spaghettini.