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What Is Italian Food In Melbourne?

You probably think of Lygon Street in Melbourne, Australia, when you think of Italian restaurants, and then you probably think of homemade pasta, pizza cooked in wood ovens by skilled pizza makers, gallons of wine, special occasions like Valentine's Day, and of course, a heaping helping of tiramisu for dessert.

However, there are so many excellent Italian restaurants in Melbourne that picking one can be a bit (read: a lot) of a challenge in a city known for its culinary offerings. Even though there are more restaurants than you can shake a gnocchi at, we decided to lend a hand.

As a prelude to recommending where you should eat in Melbourne, we'll examine the city's history as an Italian food mecca. Food in Melbourne is fairly diverse, which is to be expected given that over 40% of the population was born in a different country.

As a result, some areas have become cultural and gastronomic epicentres with their own streets and restaurants.

Lygon Street in Melbourne is without parallel as a tourist destination.

Lygon Street, also known as Little Italy, is a lively and long street lined with cafes, espresso bars, artisanal gelaterias, and restaurants. It is also the site of Australia's first pizzeria. Nearly everything that originates in Italy. The first cafes appeared in. This street is home to Australia's oldest functioning coffee machine.

Since postwar immigration, Melbourne's dining scene has been in a state of constant change. Old-school ethics coexist with the modern, experimental, and ambitious cooking of young chefs. As a result, Melbourne's Italian eateries are among the nation's most vibrant cultural centres.

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Italian Food In Melbourne

This time, we want to eat at the finest Italian eateries Melbourne has to offer. We have some of the finest Italian restaurants outside of the boot-shaped country; you can eat your way through the city while sampling dishes from different regions, popular dishes, and innovative takes on old standards.

Ecco il Ristorante

Simplicity is the key to any great Italian dish. The brilliance of the cuisine is in its simplicity; dishes should feature no more than a handful of ingredients. Thankfully, the staff at Ecco il Ristorante is aware of this, and the results have us weak in the knees.

This unpretentious Italian eatery in Melbourne is among the city's best because it provides both an outdoor patio for warm weather and a warm fireplace for cooler months.

Marano

Easily one of our favourite restaurants, Marameo is contemporary Italian dining at its best. It is housed in what was formerly the iconic Italian restaurant Sarti. I.T., the space has been transformed to reflect Marameo’s slightly cheekier personality. 

The interior is open-planned with super slick modern furnishings throughout. The addition of a dedicated bar provides ample space to prop yourself up, and a north-west facing terrace is perfect for days spent drinking in the sunshine. 

With the head chef running the show, the menu is of a truly superb standard – from antipasti right through to dolci. As far as Italian restaurants in Melbourne go, this is one you should most definitely be checking out.

Grossi Florentino

It's nice to know that Grossi Florentino is one restaurant where the owners still care about the details, even though it's been a while since men were required to wear jackets at all times. Lights are dimmed in the grand Mural Room, one of Melbourne's last vestiges of opulent European dining charm, and the ambience is set with the offer of a handbag stool.

Seasoning the glasses is a balletic ritual performed after any bottle of wine is ordered from the novel-sized list. This is true whether you order a Premier Cru or a $70 Vermentino. Not to mention the great snack food that comes with the $150 three-course or $180 six-course "grand tour" price tag.

So sorry, but this isn't a cheap luxuries parody. Guy Grossi's crowd-pleasing fried croquetas of veal and pork with olives worked through the meat for a clever take on Ascoli, all rugged and rustic; or the strip of dehydrated capsicum, like a kids' fruit strap, wearing squiggles of whipped bottarga cream; or the dainty pastry cornetti holding a smoosh of ingredients playing on the inevitable charms of the eggplant parmigiana, with parmes

In addition to the excellent sourdough served in the Grossi's first class cabin, passengers can also enjoy cultured butter, first press organic olive oil, ricotta, and balsamic vinegar. And the lightest, crispiest grissini in the entire world.

The molto Italian menu can be pronounced however you like, and the suave Italian-speaking wait staff, led by family scion Carlo Grossi, will not laugh at your attempts. But it's a great way to set the tone for the main event, which could start with jewel-like tuna, radish, horseradish cream, and a nectar-sweet curveball from a blood orange.

There's a heartier dish of octopus, expertly prepared with a bold exterior char and interiors of just-set gelatinousness, served with a smoked potato mash that serves double duty as both a carbohydrate source and a condiment.

Pasta will be present. Bug meat and a rich, buttery sauce that owes a subtle debt to collateral, the richly savoury fermented fish sauce invented by the Ancient Romans, make for a scrumptious combination in a dish of ragged flags of pasta made with breadcrumbs. You can rule out the possibility of finding this at the Spaghetti Tree across the street.

Umberto Espresso Bar 

A true local to the Thornbury precinct, Umberto’s is a laid-back Osteria with a welcoming atmosphere and a hearty range of Italian dishes. Named after owner Marco Finanzio’s Calabrian-born father, Umberto, the High Street favourite has an intimate and family-infused feel. 

On the menu here, you’ll find a reliable selection of favourites, from well-executed penne All’Amatriciana to a hearty Osso Buco with fried polenta. As well as their regular menu, there are also rotating specials which are chalked up on the wall-wrapping blackboards. 

Cecconi's Flinders Lane

cecconi's flinders lane

Unquestionably, Cecconi's is the best Italian restaurant in Melbourne. With over 40 years of experience in the Melbourne dining scene, the Bortolotto family has been at the helm of this hatted establishment since 2016.

Elegant, refined, and inventive, Maurice Esposito, who runs the kitchen in this legendary establishment, has crafted a menu based on seasonal ingredients that the restaurant grows themselves.

Historic family photographs line the walls, and the impressive low-hanging lighting sets the right mood for the food. Cecconi's is an unbeatable Melbourne institution and a true sensory experience.

Di Stasio Citta

Call Di Stasio Città one of the year’s most anticipated openings is like calling the tram stop at the corner of Flinders and somewhat sketchy. Having finally switched on the red light in its pod-like entrance portal a few weeks ago, it feels like half of Melbourne has been getting misty-eyed over the 30-plus-year legacy of St Kilda’s Cafe Di Stasio and the even longer legacy of Rinaldo Di Stasio, the city’s one-person answer to the family.

We’re among them. Melbourne would be the lesser without the occasionally controversial Café Di Stasio in St Kilda, a place of captivating dark mystery where the D.N.A. of excess seems to have seeped into the very floors and walls.

You could get decision paralysis faced with the huge single-page menu. Instead, sage leaves and anchovies wrapped in a lacy batter with a squeeze of lemon are the perfect aperitivo hour snack. 

A platter of cheesy, salty pastries, some with shades of prosciutto, others like a spinach-driven finger of Cucina Povera, might seem to offer salvation, but hold your carb fire for the pasta. Pasta is to Di Stasio as the Sistine Chapel is to the Vatican. 

To date, the linguini Capri is enjoying pole position on Instagram, but capellini – angel hair by another name – with loads of garlic and briny-sweet chunks of crab meat in its white wine-driven sauce, is nipping at its heels.

A quorum of the St Kilda menu has made the trip to the city. The pasta maltagliata, ragged flags of breadcrumb pasta with calamari and radicchio, is here. So is the pigeon pie from Bar Di Stasio, a puff of pastry filled with what can only be described as gamey bird jam.

The two-word take-home about Città: delicious and expensive. Two pieces of golden-skinned duck could be the best pieces of duck you’ve eaten in your life. That $48 is something for the individual diner to percolate.

DOC

Get the full D.O.C. treatment from the restaurant's all-Italian staff, who work like clockwork to serve the restaurant's seemingly endless stream of customers.

D.O.C Pizza, home to some of Melbourne's best pizza, uses only the highest-quality ingredients as referenced by the Italian food grading system. Pizza lovers can choose from several options, including the pasta shop on Lygon Street and the vegan option at Bio-By DOC.

38 Chairs South Yarra

Inspired by the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, 38 Chairs is the brainchild of passionate restaurateur Gino Forlano. With several spaces within the 38 Chairs brand, the South Yarra venue is for a special, high-end affair. 

Everything is carefully curated here, meaning the restaurant is as aesthetically pleasing as it gets. The menu is designed around fresh, authentic Italian pasta best described as bowls of heaven, with amazing wine to accompany them, naturally. Family-friendly, sophisticated and delicious, 38 Chairs certainly has our seal of approval.

Il Bacaro

In its small, crowded restaurant, Il Bacaro serves up a modern twist on classic Venetian fare. We’re not talking foams or sands or molecular tech on the plate. Instead, the poached cod comes with a watermelon consommé, pickled cucumber, fennel, dill and elderflower, and the Limoncello baba comes with white chocolate and mascarpone semifreddo, lemon myrtle and meringue. Subtle creativity and high-end dining are the names of the game here. 

Grossi Florentino

Grossi Florentino tries very hard to put the spotlight on the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients. This Melbourne Italian restaurant is a throwback to a bygone era, with waiters who open the door, take your coat, and help you to your table, and are divided into three distinct sections: the cellar bar, the grill, and the Florentino.

Although Grossi Florentino's elegance and charm are enough to win over any visitor, the menu is where the real love lies.

The menu is set up so that each diner can enjoy three courses (or more, if they so choose), and the service is prompt, polite, and expertly executed. There's the kind of place where the food and wine pair so well that you leave feeling on cloud nine. Absolute necessity.

Capitano

Capitano is the sort of space that you can slip pretty easily into, from a Friday night dinner service to a lazy Sunday lunch. 

The food here is pared back but delicious—from heaping bowls of Cacio e Pepe to double pepperoni pizzas to their famed Vodka-pasta; you’ll find everything you need to satiate your carby Italian cravings. Then, wash it all down with a blood orange negroni—Bellissimo.

Tipo 00

There’s a section of Little Bourke Street known to some as ‘Adventure Town’ for its abundance of camping shops. You’ve been there lots – it’s that shadowy, raked strip of toe shoe spruikers and spondonicle peddlers just west of Elizabeth Street. It’s also pounding for pound one of the best places to eat in the CBD. 

Maybe you know it as the site of Shanghai Street’s first outpost. Possibly for O.G. third-wave coffee hovel Brother Baba Budan. Perhaps you frequent the Danish Consulate’s secret smørrebrød dispensary, Denmark House. 

It’s a busy beat, and while there might be no denser concentration of carabiners in the southern hemisphere, the best adventures in these parts are fairly and squarely culinary. So if you’ve had some luck in life, you might know this moody Melbourne snapshot for Tipo 00: one of the finest pasta bars you could ever hope to spend your time in.

“It’s not like it used to be,” says our waiter wistfully as she scans an animated dunch crowd, pointing to the fact the 40-seater is only three-quarters full at 3.45 pm on this cold Monday and not spilling out the door as per. It is, of course, fully booked at dinner for weeks to come, but “the tourists just aren’t here anymore”, meaning there are a couple of unoccupied seats under Tipo’s powder blue ceiling for the first time in a long time. That’s good news for you, and just between us, lunchtime might be the best time to eat here. 

There’s a sort of post-lunch-rush afterglow in the air that is very attractive: the floor team taking turns resting a minute with their staff meals up the back; the amber glow of the spotlit pass fending off the waning winter light outside; the kitchen crew sharing a quiet gag as they calmly prep for the evening surge. It’s all of the warmth and invitation built into the term ‘pasta bar’, but with a guard-down, backstage sincerity that is almost Disney-esque. 

Possibly you’re here for a quick bowl and a glass of wine at the handsome marble bar. Good for you. You’re not alone. There’s plenty by the glass on Tipo’s 80/20 Italian/local list, and the competent team will be delighted to pour you something that speaks to you and your spaghetti. 

However, if you can afford the time, take it easy and consult the starters. Sliced whisper-thin under the centrepiece copper lamps, the locally sourced salumi is led by a stunning chilli-and-fennel Lonza that piles on warm bread and disappears shortly after that. 

The charred calamari, cut into rough triangles like offcuts from a paper bunting, is also flawless, a fresh bed of celery and farro offering earthy support. And if the stracciatella is anything like that plated next door at Tipo’s sister restaurant, Osteria Ilaria, you’re in for something unforgettable again. But we shan’t be filling up on starters at the restaurant named and famed for its pasta flour. 

Osteria

Italian by name, Japanese by birth, is the concept behind Brighton newcomer Osteria. It’s the kind of place where the wine and pasta flow all night long, which is our favourite style of dining. 

The space boasts exposed brick walls, an open kitchen and bespoke furniture, while the menu is back-to-basics Italian showcasing a wide variety of regional dishes. A new face to the Italian restaurants in Melbourne, Osteriya is making waves for all the right reasons.

Scopri 

There is very, very little to dislike about Scopri, from the impeccable dishes to the sumptuous Italian wines. The dimly lit interior is cosy and stylish, perfect for a third date or that long-overdue catch-up. 

Dig into the Tagliolini with local rock lobster, cherry tomato and saffron or the Galletto-Alla-Griglia, chargrilled spatchcock, baby leeks and local mushroom. If you’re starving, just let the sweet peeps at Scopri pick their best dishes for you with their ‘Feed The Table’ menu for $90pp.

Baby Pizza 

A pillar of the LUCAS Groups restaurant empire, BABY Pizza, and its red neon-lit restaurant has established itself as one of the best Italian restaurants Melbourne has on offer. The modern and chic eatery constantly plays host to events, from Aperitivos to Degustations. 

The menu has a fine selection of Italian favourites, including an absolute belter of a meatball pizza, the ‘Polpette’ with Fior di latte, meatballs, chilli, pecorino and basil is always a great decision. Baby is all about fun. It’s a celebration of Italian cuisine and the joy that it conjures. Whether for a quick feed or a night out, it’s always one to keep in mind.

Cafe Di Stasio

Cafe Di Stasio, one of Melbourne's most renowned Italian restaurants, is a shrine to those who worship at the altar of Italian cuisine. Fans of Rinaldo Di Stasio's menu creations flock to this location.

This eatery is both cosy and dramatic, thanks in part to a powerful Bill Henson portrait hanging on one wall. For over 25 years, this restaurant has been the best choice for Italian food in Melbourne, and it's easy to see why: the menu is authentically Italian, and the service is impeccable.

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Bar Carolina

There is no shortage of excellent Italian eateries in Melbourne. We have a wide variety, from the refined simplicity of Rosetta and the storied history of Grossi Florentino to the exciting authenticity of brands like Pasta Adagio and Tipo00.

With a menu that pleases both traditionalists and those looking for innovative takes on Italian classics, Bar Carolina has all the makings of joining its sibling restaurants in Melbourne's elite "Ivy League" of restaurants. However, despite the occasional jolt to the unwary, these two camps manage to peacefully coexist.

A dish typical of a hilltop village trattoria in the Puglian hinterland is fried zucchini flowers stuffed with garlicky salt cod brandade. Slow-cooked baby goat breast with broad beans and salted ricotta ribbons is another dish that fits equally well on the menus of both casual eateries and fine dining establishments.

Tagliolini, the thin strips anointed with a luxurious combination of Moreton Bay bug meat and the umami thrum of porcini mushrooms and a thicket of dried chilli slivers on top, should be the first thing pasta lovers order. It's proof that pretty pasta can be delicious, too!

The Vitello tonnato is the perfect starter for those who want to go all out. This dish features poached veal cubes and raw tuna sashimi joined asunder by pickled shimeji mushrooms and dainty dabs of anchovy mayo, and it is a complete inversion of the traditional version of the dish. We call it delicious; others may call it a travesty.

A25 Pizzeria Melbourne

A25 Pizzeria serves up some of the best pizza in the city, making it a popular choice for food photos on social media. You read that right; their idea is centred on making pizza more sexual.

With pizza mastermind Remo Nicolini at the helm and a name inspired by the highway that links Rome and the coastal town of Pescara, you can rest assured that this Melbourne collective will be innovative, original, and totally chill.

Their South Yarra, Docklands, and CBD locations serve both classic and wacky pizzas, as well as a variety of delicious and visually pleasing cheese and cured meat boards. Visit this place if you want to live on the edge.

FAQs About Italian Food In Melbourne

A true legend of Lygon Street, Tiamo is a Melbourne institution that’s been serving up top-notch cuisine for over 30 years. So grab a piping hot bowl of fresh pasta, some traditional honest-to-goodness Italian pizza, or even one of their three parmas (four if you count their schnitzel).

The Italian community of Melbourne is the second-largest ethnic group in Greater Melbourne, Australia, second to the Anglo-Celtic Australians ethnic group. The 2011 Census counted that of the 185,402 residents that were born in Italy who lives in Australia, 68,823 lived in Melbourne, which was the highest percentage of the country at 37.1%.

Following World War II, Australia saw a huge influx of Italian migrants settling throughout Melbourne. The northern inner suburbs saw the highest population densities of Italian migration between the 1940s-60s.

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