Gnocchi. A game-winner in Scrabble and an ungodly nightmare for Masterchef contestants. Who would have thought making pillowy soft potato parcels and splodging on some meaty ragù was so difficult?
But as anyone who’s actually made gnocchi will tell you: its complexity is in its simplicity. And when you get the real deal, the homemade stuff that melts on the tongue…watch out. It leaves the humble spaghetti in the dust.
Here are the best places to get gnocchi in Melbourne.
Hawthorn’s Venetian wine bar and eatery (don’t you love places that describe themselves as ‘eateries’?). Vaporetto’s menu is changing all the time, but at the moment they’ve got a gnocchi dish that will make you want to sell your Brunswick loft and move into a garret on the Grand Canal. Perfectly cooked potato, paired with a pull-apart, slow-cooked lamb shoulder ragù, leeks, cloves, saltbush and truffled pecorino. They even gave us the cooking pan with some toasted bruschetta in there to soak up the juices.
Bow down before the undisputed king of Melbourne pasta. What did we do before Tipo 00 guys? Seriously. Tipo’s menu changes often, and there are food-envy-traps all over the place, but the gnocchi is (99.5% of the time) the right decision. They just do it better than anyone else. The texture is soft…with a teeny bit of give. The sauces are always simple but spectacular. These days they’re dishing up a braised duck with porcini mushrooms and grated pecorino. Order it and prepare to be the focus of severe table envy.
Ms Frankie isn’t trying to cover every Italian base. It’s more curated than that. This is a contemporary, A-Grade cocktail and pasta bar. The pasta is made by hand in a glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled booth. You can even sit up at the bar and watch Piera do her thing through the glass.
The gnocchi ragu is a definite highlight: slow-cooked beef in a simple red sauce, with a depth of flavour that makes your brain fizz. And as you’d expect Piera nails the gnocchi—they’re pillowy and well-seasoned, with just a hint of bite.
Fatto Bar & Cantina
Hamer Hall favourite Fatto Bar & Cantina made its name on one dish: the spanner crab spaghetti with lemon, chilli, parsley and freshly grated parmesan. Simple and utterly ridiculous (you always see about 15 of them in the restaurant before curtain-up). But they’ve also got a cracking gnocchi on the specials menu: fluffy potato and parmesan gems with an oozy-rich rabbit ragù made extra ridiculous with prosciutto, marjoram and sage. The never-ending wine list ain’t that bad either.
Local Folk Cafe
A classic Kensington oasis: all cute timber, leafy trees and that sunlight you only get in the north-west (we think they ship it in from somewhere). Local Folk is a brekky hotspot, and it’s unusual to see gnocchi feature on a breakfast menu.
This one’s an exception: a hearty mix of potato gnocchi, bacon, cherry tomatoes and mushroom, all topped off with pickled onion, a fried egg and shaved pecorino. Sounds weird, but we promise it works. The egg splits and coats the gnocchi, creating some sort of alchemical fusion that may be new to science. We’re pretty excited.
Eat’aliano By Pino
Eat’aliano (get it?) has staked its reputation on pizza done ruota di carro (“chariot wheel” style), which means huge, puffy-crusted, ultra-thin wagon wheels of cheesy deliciousness. Their Margherita is living proof that you don’t need lots of toppings for lots of flavour.
But the gnocchi might just give it a run for its money. With two variations to the deliciousness one with a Napoli sauce, mozzarella and D.O.P Grana Padano as well as a four-cheese sauce baked in the oven. It’s almost too hard to choose and it’s probably a good idea to grab the calamari fritti while you’re at it.
Thirty Eight Chairs
You know the Italian’s gonna be good when you’ve got these guys at the helm. Thirty Eight Chairs is all about modern Italian food with the old-school Italian service. Start the night out with a little Cicchetti (maybe some saffron and pea Arancini or Insalata Caprese with fresh basil) then move on the main event: the gnocchi.
Served with baby veal ragu with a white wine salsa it's beautifully presented almost like you don’t want to eat it… but trust us, you do.
Don’t expect a sit-down situation at Good Gnocchi—there’s a takeaway window from which owner James Eddy will sling foil containers of gnocchi at you and that’s about it. But with ooey-gooey, lip-smacking cheesy gobs of the best pillowy treats, you’ll never want to head back to work from your lunch break anyway.
All gnocchi servings are $15 a pop, which is totally worth the comforting warmth and gooeyness of a nice takeaway container of gnocchi on a cold winter’s day. Good Gnocchi is open Tuesday until Saturday from 11:30 am until 9 pm, so grab a container at lunch or on the way home and enjoy.
No matter what anyone tells you, Nutella doughnuts started here. Unfortunately, +39 Pizzeria has moved on from their doughnut heydey (they like to keep things fresh), but the good news is their still dishing up some of the best, most authentic Italian in Melbourne. And that includes gnocchi. Oven-baked semolina gnocchi, tomato salsa, béchamel, fior di latte and parmesan. Carnivores may grumble that it could be improved with some beef ragù, but there’s no pleasing some people.
Windsor's new cocktail bar and eatery, Lover, has hit the ground running. Not only by hosting an actual In-N-Out pop-up (seriously, how did that even happen?) but by dishing up one of the best veggo gnocchi in town. Pan-fried pillowed of potato goodness, dressed in fresh cheese, basil and zucchini. Fresh, zingy and oh-so-moreish. Get it while it's hot.
From the makers of Melbourne's mod-Asian mecca, Chin Chin, comes the sexy Italian half-sister smack bang in the heart of Richmond. The authentically Italian menu features 20 pizzas using simple yet tasty ingredients, such as fresh mozzarellas and salty pancettas. But the gnocchi is just as delicious, served with pumpkin and sage it pure ecstasy.
Classic Italian goodness in the heart of Carlton, Trotters is perfect for pizzas, pasta’s but even burgers with its hint of Australian bistro influence to the menu. With their gnocchi, it's perfect for both meat-eaters and those who aren’t.
Gnocchi with slow-cooked beef and red wine ragu is a perfect warming dish but after something lighter and without meat is served with baby spinach, roasted pumpkin, pepitas and burnt butter sage. Be sure it check it all out soon, definitely a perfect night out for a quick bite.
Hungry for more? Here's where to find Melbourne's best pasta.
Image credit: Ms Frankie | Griffin Simm