Like the precinct’s spruikers, the choice really is overwhelming when it comes to Lygon Street restaurants. One will tell you they have the freshest carbonara in the southern hemisphere while the other will stake claim to a 400 cheese pizza. Both worthy options, but dig deeper and you’ll find a diverse culinary offering ranging from fiery ramen at one end and modern Australian at the other
While this list begins with the best Italian Carlton has to offer, it’s worth keeping your options open when it comes to which suburb of the street you plan on visiting, and what cuisine you’re after, too.
No matter which arm of the D.O.C empire you’re visiting, it’s safe to say that they’re the authority of Italian in Melbourne, and the Lygon Street restaurants precinct offers three of its outposts.
Side by side is D.O.C Espresso which serves up fresh pasta and charcuterie along with the deli next door, while a short stroll around the corner will see you arrive at D.O.C Pizza & Mozzarella Bar where you should absolutely order the truffle-laden Pizza ai Porcini.
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The spruikers out the front will probably tell you it’s the best Italian Carlton has, and to be honest, they’re probably not far off the truth. La Spaghettata is exactly what you expect of Italian on Lygon St; think plaid table cloths, generous servings of your classic carbonaras and spag bols, and waitstaff that know the menu like the back of their hand.
It’s venues like these that helped shape Lygon Street into what it is today, and they’re worth your time for the nostalgic throwback alone.
Easily a contender for the best Italian Carlton is offering right now, and a staple from the Lygon Street Melbourne restaurants offering, Tiamo is another of the classics where you know you can’t go wrong.
The price point is slightly higher than that of the cheap and cheerful pasta houses you’ll find littered along Lygon, but it’s certainly worth your weekend per diem given the heritage. Try one of the three parmas—recipes no doubt passed on from many nonnas up the Tiamo family tree.
Milk The Cow
Milk The Cow is one of those Lygon Street restaurants for people who like cheese for every meal of the day.
Opt for a restrained flight of drinks and cheese matchings, meet in the middle with a curated cheeseboard or go all-out with The Grundlelegend (The Ultimate) fondue hotpot.
Heart Attack & Vine
Out of all the Lygon Street restaurants, you’ll hear most say Heart Attack & Vine is a favourite of theirs. Its humble size is countered by the considered winelist and euro tapas selection that can just as easily be enjoyed with mates, on a date or alone.
The editor’s pick here is their signature meatball sub ordered mid-afternoon. paired with a good book from Readings just two doors up.
Some of the best Italian Carlton serves, and some of the most refined, too. Agostino comes part and parcel as part of its parent venue next door, King & Godfree; the menu is here is sharp, with a clear hero dish being the rabbit ragu.
On the vino front, there’s an expansive selection with several very special bottles that they’ve pulled from the cellars long before their massive renovation 18 odd months back—enquire within on your next visit.
King & Godfree
Here, you’ll find some of the best Italian Carlton can offer you, your date, your folks or your family; the venue is spacious and the atmosphere is relaxed. Once you’re seated, you’ll find a menu that’s accessible on price as well the dishes on offer.
Image credit: Mel Desa
A bit of wildcard from the Lygon Street restaurants, Hakata Gensuke stands out from not just the Italian restaurants of Lygon Street, but the ramen restaurants of Melbourne, too.
Originating from Hakata in Japan, or more commonly known as Fukuoka to western nations, Hakata Gensuke serves up several traditional ramen recipes, ranging from the lighter char-su style across to their signature Yatai Godfire ramen (in case you were wondering, it’s damn hot).
Make your way past the Lygon St restaurants everyone associates Carlton with and you’ll find yourself in Brunswick East. The Italian influence dissipates as you cross into the suburb with Modern Aussie charmers like Etta.
Walking into Etta feels like you’ve been invited into a good friend’s house, and that good friend happens to be really damn talented in the kitchen. This contemporary diner focuses on local ingredients and bold, wholesome flavours—highlights include the stracciatella, and the raw beef and salted mushrooms, which you can order as a snack in the cosy front bar or as part of a full menu experience in the adjoining dining room.
BBQ royalty, Bluebonnet, has parked up in Brunswick East among the extensive grip of Lygon St restaurants. Setting themselves aside from the Italian fare you can find so easily further up the strip, Bluebonnet serves up traditional smoked meats and southern-style comfort food.
Their beer selection is also off-tap, or on tap depending on how literal you want to get. Recommended for when you’re damn hungry.
Image credit: Sean Hastings
Contrary to what the name suggests, Bar Idda is a restaurant. It’s a cosy affair here, with enough seats for you, your mates and maybe your mates’ partners, too.
The menu is loosely tied to a Sicilian theme, with offerings occasionally straying into subtle Middle-Eastern influences.
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Romantica rings true to its name with at least several couples mid-date positioned comfortably in the dimly lit booths on any given night. The kitchen here plates a mix of pasta, pizza, oysters and other Ital-style snacks. Truth be told, it’s some of the best Italian Carlton regulars wouldn’t know about it.
This locals haunt is open (very) late over the weekends, and you can get a pizza right up until they lock the doors on you at 3am on Saturday night/Sunday morning.
Looking for Melbourne's best Italian. Twist your fork into our definitive list here.
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