It’s no secret Melbourne is the food capital of Australia; and when it comes to Italian delights and indulgences, it’s really not hard to find a gem. Whether you’re crazy for calzones or amorous about arancini, we’ve curated a list for you of our favourite Italian spots that will make even your nonna hungry.
Essendon, Ringwood, Brunswick & CBD
Owner, Johnny Di Frances was crowned World Pizza champion a few years back, beating out 600 competitors from 35 countries at the Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza. So, obviously we can’t get enough of 400 Gradi’s world-class Margherita. Their classic spaghetti alla carbonara with egg, Italian guanciale (a specialty cured meat) and pecorino sardo is also a must try. So get your cheese-loving butt around it.
We couldn't leave this place out. One of Melbourne’s leading pasta bars, Tipo 00 serves refined, elegant dishes at awfully affordable prices. Wedged in Little Bourke Street, the quaint space features dark timber and an intimate communal bench. We could chow down on their Gnocchi Di Patate, a rich dish of braised duck, porcini mushrooms and pecorino, every day. Still the city's numero uno.
Home to oversized penne (what genius), +39 Pizzeria serves their signature main with fresh pesto alla Genovese and stracciatella cheese in a cosy, pared-backed interior. Don’t skimp: add the Italian black truffle paste. Penne for your thoughts?
Pellegrini's Espresso Bar
Delivering nonna-style home cooking, this Italian institution has no set menu, just daily dishes written in chalk on ageing blackboards. If you’re lucky enough to visit while Pellegrini's is serving homely, no-frills carbonara, you’re about to be transported to cheese-filled heaven. You can mop up their creamy, decadent sauce with pillow-soft bread. Or, grab a tried-and-true spag bol and a watermelon granita (alas, there's no booze here).
There’s a sense of mature sophistication at one of Melbourne’s best CBD restaurants, Cecconi’s. Run by the Bortolotto family, who've been at this game for over 40 years, this former radio station has been transformed into a stylish temple devoted to worshipping rustic Italian food. Expect fresh, seasonal ingredients with their linguine, seafood, garlic, and chilli and herbs pasta.
Tipo 00 changed the Melbourne pasta game, but they weren't done there. In 2017 they opened Osteria Ilaria next door, this time with a specific anti-pasta mission. Don't expect tortellini here: Osteria is more about fennel-flecked sourdough, lamb cutlets in a saucy romesco or kickass mushroom croquettes. Bookings essential.
Richmond is teeming with good Italian dining options. Chin Chin king, Chris Lucas's Baby Pizza features 20 pizzas using simple yet tasty ingredients, such as fresh mozzarellas and salty pancettas. You can even come down for breakfast as they do all the old favourites - bircher, eggs etc. Now the scaffolding is off the building, they're fired up and ready to rock Melbourne's pizza scene.
The newest contender for Melbourne's 'Best Pasta' mantle is Ms Frankie. The sfoglina behind this one is Piera Pagnoni, a Bologna Nonna who’s been making pasta by hand since she was six. If you’re feeling traditional, hit up their Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Alla Marinara, chock full of fresh-caught clams, mussels, prawns and kingfish. Or try out the gnocchi ragu–slow-cooked beef in a simple red sauce, with a depth of flavour that makes your brain fizz.
A little slice of Venice in Melbourne. That's probably the best way to describe Vaporetto. These guys may have singlehandedly started the Aperol Spritz craze (it is a Venetian classic, after all). You'll find them down the arcade, just past The Lido Cinema, off Glenferrie Rd. The slightly hidden nature makes it feel extra special like you're wandering the alleys off St Mark's Square and stumbled on a cosy little cocktail bar. Our tip for food? It's gotta be the gnocchi ragu. One of the best in the city.
Fox In The Corn
The Italian restaurant, Fox In The Corn, is dedicated to using ethically sourced produce to create generous, simple pasta dishes you’ll crave come winter. Ordering is a DIY game, with three choices of pasta and 11 sauces to pick from. If this choose-your-own-adventure is overwhelming your pasta-loving heart, order the fettuccine with housemade Nap. Can't go wrong.
Fitzroy North, Chadstone & Essendon
This Sicilian restaurant has 20 years under its belt and three generations of family working in the business. Get ready for nostalgia overload, with family photos adorning the walls and red and white checked tablecloths on every table, the way nature intended. Check out their farcito calzoni with salami, mozzarella, olives, Pomodoro sauce, fresh ricotta & basil. Deliciozo.
There is very, very little to dislike about Scopri, from the impeccable pasta dishes to the Italian wines. The moody interior is cozy and stylish, perfect for a third date or that long overdue girly gossip sesh. For seafood lovers, go the Tortelli Di Pesce with tortellini, filled with prawn and white fish mousse in a tomato and crustacean sauce—it's Italian heaven in a bowl. Try to resist licking the last of it, if you can.
D.O.C Gastronomia taliana
Carlton, Mornington & Southbank
For most of us, the idea of pizza is accompanied by putting on our tracksuit pants, pouring a glass of red, and vegging out in front telly. All your ideas of pizza will be transformed after you’ve experienced the award-winning artisan pizza at D.O.C. There's a reason this place ends up on the 'Gram so often...
South Melbourne & Malvern
The majority of visitors to South Melbourne’s Etto may be looking for a homely, quick takeaway meal, but we pity the pasta fool who judges this pint-sized restaurant based on that. Redefining (read: ruining) fast food in Melbourne, Etto pairs their homemade pasta (made fresh daily) with classic sauces, ideal for an unpretentious hot meal on the go. From thick strips of Pappardelle to flavoursome ravioli, we recommend reacquainting spaghetti MEET ball.
Thirty Eight Chairs
This is some of the best that South Yarra has to offer. Our tip? Keep your beady eyes on the pasta. Thirty Eight Chairs’ Pappardelle Al Ragu Di Anatra with curly pappardelle, slow-cooked duck ragu (to die for), porcini and shaved pecorino is a winner. The cheese-baked gnocchi has also been known to make grown men weep with happiness.
If you're still hungry check out where to find Melbourne's Best Pizza.
Image credit: Ms Frankie | Jenna Fahey-White