Did you know that in Italy, gnocchi is actually served as an entrée dish as an alternative to pasta? Yet, for some glorious reason gnocchi in Australia has (quite cleverly) morphed itself into a giant-sized main meal (go you good thing!!). Maybe it's because us Aussies love a good hearty serving of food, or perhaps it's just because we love gnocchi so much we can't stop at an entrée serving!
To put it simply, how could we? Cute little balls of potato smothered in a variety of delicious Italian sauces – bolognaise, ragu, gorgonzola, squid ink – there are so many possibilities for the modern-day gnocchi aficionado. If you consider yourself at one with the potato, grab your nearest nonna and jump for joy as we've scaled the best Italian restaurants in town to give you a list of Melbourne's best gnocchi dishes.
CECCONI'S | MELBOURNE CBD
The Bortolotto family head up this beautiful Melbourne Italian restaurant, bringing an ever-changing menu reflective of seasonal produce to Flinders Lane. Order the gnocchi here and you could be treated to anything from the signature Gnocchi Gorgonzola packed full of rich cheesy flavour that you're going to be thinking about for days, or the amazing Gnocchi Genovese complete with peas, broad beans and delectable basil pesto. Trust us, the combo of peas and beans works perfectly with the pesto!
For something a little different, opt for the Gnocchi Squid Ink with baby squid, broccoli and cherry tomatoes. The gnocchi turns a striking shade of black, offset by the bright colours of the other accompaniments – gorgeous! Cooked to absolute perfection every time, the flavours are perfectly divine. All in all Cecconi's gets a seamless 10/10! And, if you're looking to re-create some of Cecconi's dishes at home (we're certainly going to give it a try), snap up their beautiful La Tavola Della Famiglia recipe book available at the restaurant. Not only will your palate be treated to glorious food whenever you like, but you'll have a great time reading all about the Bortolotto family and how they got to where they are now!
1889 CUCINA POVERA | FITZROY NORTH
For all your mushroom lovers out there, we've got the goods for you thanks to the very talented chefs at 1889 Cucina Povera and their deliciously yummy Porcini Mushroom Gnocchi. Dishing up some of the best pasta in Melbourne, this signature dish is light and fluffy and packed full of mouth-watering mushroomy flavour! These babies don't rely on the use of too much flour to keep them soft, so expect to be tasting little light pillows rather than a whole chunk of dough. In fact, we joked about taking a nap on them!
1889 Cucina Povera keep things fresh by rotating their menu based on the seasons, but this little gem is one of their faves (and ours) so it's gonna be available all year round. Score!
Gnocchi with Ox-tail Ragu is one of the favourites at this busy Fitzroy den. Think soft, delicate gnocchi intertwined with tender mouth-watering ox-tail and dotted with parmesan cheese for extra good looks – and taste. This dish is heavenly in the richest way possible, and so it should be when Mario's team of experienced chefs are busily hand making it every single day. Another great thing to point out at Mario's is that the bread you get when you first sit down is definitely worth the extra carbohydrates. I mean if you're going to have gnocchi, you might as well go to town right? Wash your meal down with a glass of red and you've got the makings of the perfect lunch out with friends or romantic evening for two. Go on treat yourself to some of Melbourne's best gnocchi!
CAFÉ ZAPPA | SOUTH MELBOURNE
Having only recently changed hands, Cafe Zappa in South Melbourne boasts everything an Italian restaurant should; friendly staff, a warm inviting atmosphere, and of course delicious food – especially on Gnocchi Thursdays! Yep, boys and girls, these guys devote one whole day to gnocchi. Choose from Napoli with Ricotta, Gorgonzola, Bolognaise and my all time favourite: the Beef Cheek Ragu. This dish is to-die-for and jam-packed with meat, there's absolutely no skimping here I can promise. And for just $15 a pop, it's an absolute steal!
But don't go filling up on gnocchi, because as part of the fantastic service, everyone who orders a gnocchi dish will receive a slice of yummy Tiramisu (hallelujah). I actually can't even convey how good this is in words, so please go forth and try for yourselves! If you need anything at all Michael and his team will be right at your service. And wait for it: all the yummy Italian food is cooked by a gorgeous couple in their 70s! I know right?
CHURCH STREET ENOTECA | RICHMOND
Get your fancy pants on, because Church Street Enoteca is swish, but by no means stiff. In other words you'll have top quality, friendly service all night at this classy Melbourne Italian, but you'll still get to dress up in your latest threads – win/win. The crew here like to mix things up a bit with their menus, so it's hard to say which gnocchi will be on their exciting menu when you do rock up, but fingers crossed you'll be treated to the Gnocchi Burnt Butter with aged balsamic and radicchio, finished with pecorino cheese!
Trust us, this baby is a winner with a capital W. Now before you go worrying about the fact that it's cooked in BUTTER, don't! Because as soon as you take one little bite, you'll realise that it's more of a background flavour and not at all overpowering. In short: you'll love it. So guys, dust off those dress shoes and gals, get that party dress ready, because it's time to fine dine – gnocchi style!
GRADI | CROWN CASINO
If you haven't heard about 400 Gradi's foray into Crown Casino you must have been living under a rock because these guys have been the topic of conversation all week! Sure, they're known for their world number 1 margherita and an array of Melbourne's best pizzas, but they also get a few other things right, too! Like for instance their gnocchi; the perfect blend of doughy and soft – just like mama used to make! Order the gnocchi, or in this case their gnocchetti (smaller version), and you'll enjoy a gorgonzola sauce that is equal parts cream and cheese, but super tasty. Hot tip: this baby is true to the traditional Italian entree size and is best ordered as a starter or side dish than a main meal – now you've got the perfect excuse to be ordering two delicious dishes at Gradi. You're welcome.
Want more of Melbourne's best pasta? Check out of restaurant and cafe directory here.
Main image credit: Domaine Home.