Ahh, 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, eh? But as anyone who’s actually made gnocchi will tell you: its simplicity is its complexity. And when you get the real deal, the homemade Nonna stuff that melts on the tongue and hits your stomach like a pile of bricks…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 on there 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, salt bush and truffled pecorino. They even gave us the cooking pan with some toasted bruschetta in there to soak up the juices. Our frontrunner for dish of the year…
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% 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 much table envy.
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 bad either.
Meatball & Wine Bar
Nothing says Gnocchi Party like plonking a huge pork and veal meatball right in the middle of the plate. Low marks for subtlety, but full marks for deliciousness. Meatball & Wine Bar has become a bit of a Melbourne institution, expanding intro Richmond, Windsor and Collingwood. And with dishes like this on the menu, it’s no wonder. The gnocchi is pan fried in oil and butter, coated in a creamy tomato sauce, and then the chefs add a ‘giant pork & veal meatball’ (amazing) and garlic bread (double amazing). Wear flexible pants.
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 prime brekky spot, and it’s unusual for gnocchi to 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 lotsa toppings for lotsa flavour. But the gnocchi might just give it a run for its money. They’ve switched up the traditional ragù for a zingy pumpkin and ginger sauce, crushed pistachios, amaretti and pecorino cheese. Sounds strange, but it works. It’s probably a good idea to grab the calamari fritti while you’re at it (pro tip).
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 the 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. It’s called the Chicche alla Sorrentina, oven baked gnocchi with ruby red Vesuvio tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil and tonnes of garlic. Cheesy, potato-y goodness.
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. This one’s a beetroot version (hello, vegos) and it comes out radioactive purple with broad beans, asparagus, peas, salted butter, chives and toasted almonds. Carnivores may grumble that it could be improved with some beef ragù, but there’s no pleasing some people.
Hungry for more? Here's where to find Melbourne's best pasta.
Image credit: Meatball & Wine Bar