Italiano, Italiano… why we love the Italian restaurants in Melbourne
When it comes to Italian restaurants in Melbourne, images of Lygon Street appear almost instantaneously in your mind. Followed closely by images of freshly made pasta, woodfired pizzas made by actual pizzaiolos, litres of wine and of course, a healthy portion of tiramisu. But in a city famous for food, it can be a tad – read: very – overwhelming to choose which Italian restaurant in Melbourne to eat in. And with more trattorias, osterias, ristorantes, pizzerias and gelaterias than you can poke a gnocchi at, we thought we’d help things along a bit…
Melbourne, how’d you get so delicious?
Before we get started on the important business of where you should be eating, we thought we’d take a look at how Melbourne became the Italian food haven it is. Considering over 40% of Melbourne’s population was born overseas, it’s no shock that the food scene is fairly diverse. This has, of course, led to streets and districts becoming hubs for certain cultures and cuisines. None of which are more famous than Melbourne’s iconic Lygon Street.
Home to Australia’s first pizzeria, Lygon Street – or Little Italy – is a long, bustling stretch that houses cafes, espresso bars, artisanal gelaterias and restaurants. Pretty much all-things-Italian really. Cafe culture began here. In fact, you’ll still find the oldest coffee machine in Australia on this street.
Melbourne’s food scene has been constantly evolving since the days of post-war immigration. Traditional values blend with creative, fresh and young chefs who are keen to make their mark. Thus, making the Italian restaurants in Melbourne some of the most exciting venues in the country.
La dolce vita
Inspired by all this, we decided to get busy and hammer out a guide to the best Italian restaurants in Melbourne. We’ve done the hard yards, and have the waistlines to prove it… thank god for the impending winter and stretchy pants, folks! You name it, we’ve eaten it so without further ado, please welcome your guide to the top 15 places to eat Italian in Melbourne.
The top 15 Italian restaurants in Melbourne
Easily one of our favourite restaurants, Sarti is contemporary Italian dining at its best. With iconic chef Paolo Masciopinto running the show, the menu of this exciting hatted restaurant is of a superb standard. The interior is reminiscent of a New York bistro, with sleek and modern furnishings as well as a rooftop terrace and bar overlooking Russell Place in the heart of the city. As far as Italian restaurants in Melbourne go, this is one you should most definitely be checking out.
Must-try: Spaghetti alla chitarra squid ink pasta with West Australian blue swimmer crab, fresh tomato, garlic and chilli followed by the signature Sarti five-layer tiramisu.
6 Russell Place, Melbourne CBD 3000
Lunch: Mon – Fri: 12 – 3pm
Dinner: Mon – Sat: 6pm – late
2. Ecco il Ristorante
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The secret to any outstanding Italian dish is simplicity. It’s not a cuisine to overcomplicate and the brilliance lies in the fact that only a few ingredients should be used in any dish. Thankfully the team at Ecco il Ristorante are well aware of this and the results have us weak at the knees. Offering al fresco dining for those long summer nights as well as a cosy fireplace to indulge by during the winter, this simple Italian restaurant in Melbourne is up there with the best.
Must-try: Ossobuco di vitello al chianti braised in a red wine jus and apple puree, with polenta, coffee and hazelnut chips.
97 Toorak Road, South Yarra, Melbourne 3141
Mon – Sat: 12 – 11pm, Sun: 4 – 11pm
3. Cecconi's Flinders Lane
When it comes to Italian restaurants in Melbourne, Cecconi’s is, without a doubt, leading the way. This hatted restaurant has been under the watchful direction of the Bortolotto family since 2016, and comes with over 40 years experience in the Melbourne food scene. Elegant, refined and creative, Maurice Esposito runs the kitchen in this iconic space and has crafted a menu featuring seasonal ingredients that the restaurant grows itself. The history is well and truly on display here with family photos adorning the walls, while impressive low-hanging lights create the perfect mood to match the menu. A true sensory experience, Cecconi’s is an unrivalled Melbourne institution.
Must-try: Crispy slow-roasted duck, fig puree, betel leaf and dried wild figs.
61 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000
Mon – Fri: 7:30am – 11:30pm, Sat: 5:30 – 11:30pm
4. 38 Chairs South Yarra
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Inspired by the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, 38 Chairs is the brainchild of passionate restaurateur Gino Forlano. With several spaces within the 38 Chairs brand, the South Yarra venue is the one for a special, high-end affair. Everything is carefully curated here, meaning the restaurant is as aesthetically pleasing as it gets. The menu is designed around fresh, authentic Italian pasta that are best described as bowls of heaven… with amazing wine to accompany them, naturally. Family friendly, sophisticated and delicious, 38 Chairs certainly has our seal of approval.
Must-try: The signature duck ragu maccheroni with forest mushrooms and shaved pecorino cheese.
4A Bond Street, South Yarra, Melbourne 3141
Lunch: Tues – Fri: 12:30 – 3:30pm
Dinner: Mon – Fri: 5:30 – 10pm
All day: Sat – Sun: 12- 30 – 10:30pm
5. Grossi Florentino
Highlighting the raw produce and simplicity of Italian dining is what Grossi Florentino does best. Divided into the cellar bar, grill and Florentino, this hatted Italian restaurant in Melbourne is a throwback to a bygone era where waiters would open the door for you, take your coat, and help you into your seat. The sheer elegance and charm is enough to make anyone fall head over heels for Grossi Florentino, but the real love, of course, comes in the form of the menu. The menu is designed so each diner will have three courses (or more, if you’re that way inclined), and the service is precise, discreet and brilliant. This is the kind of place where your wine will be perfectly matched and you’ll leave on cloud nine. Simply a must.
Must-try: Wild barramundi with fregola, borlotti and nduja.
80 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000Sun: Closed
Lunch: Mon – Fri: From Midday
Dinner: Mon – Sat: From 6pm
Italian by name, Japanese by birth is the concept behind Brighton newcomer, Osteriya. It’s the kind of place where the wine and pasta flow all night long, which is our favourite style of dining, truth be told. The space itself boasts exposed brick walls, an open kitchen and bespoke furniture while the menu is back-to-basics Italian showcasing a wide variety of regional dishes. A new face to the Italian restaurants in Melbourne, Osteriya is making waves for all the right reasons.
Must-try: Guancia di manzo braised ox cheeks cooked in red wine with walnuts, radish, pear and a gorgonzola cheese salad.
760 Hampton Street, Brighton, Melbourne 3186
Lunch: Fri – Sat: 12 – 3pm
Dinner: Tues – Sat: 5:30 – late
7. 1000 Lire Pizza Stuzzichini
Fitzroy North folk are very lucky to have 1000 Lire Pizza Stuzzichini in their locale. The focal point is the impressive woodfired oven located in the centre of the dining room. Relaxing, casual and home to an impressive selection of Italian dishes, this St Georges Road spot is a favourite for good reason. We’re particularly partial to the pizzas here, but the antipasti, pasta and stuzzichini (the Italian version of tapas) are all exceptional as well. Even better, this joint also has plenty of vegan, gluten-free and nut-free options so everyone is sorted. Bellissimo!
Must-try: Norma pizza topped with tomato, fior di latte, basil, fried eggplant, smoked ham and shaved ricotta salata.
211-213 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North, Melbourne 3068
Sun – Thurs: 5:30 – 10pm, Fri – Sat: 5:30 – 10:30pm
8. Cafe Di Stasio
One of the most artistic and historic Italian restaurants in Melbourne, Cafe Di Stasio is a site of divine worship for lovers of Italian cuisine. Foodies flock to this space eager to indulge in the carefully curated menu designed by owner Rinaldo Di Stasio. Simple and intimate, this restaurant also has a distinctive air of theatricality about it – perhaps the evocative Bill Henson image on the wall has something to do with that. With a menu that’s as Italian as it gets and staff that truly go above and beyond, it’s no wonder this has been the go-to spot for Italian dining in Melbourne for over 25 years.
Must-try: Brasato di Cinghiale wild boar braised with white wine, chestnuts and radicchio.
31 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, Melbourne 3182
Lunch: Sun – Mon: 12 – 3:30pm
Dinner: Sun – Mon: 6 – 11pm
9. 48H Pizza e Gnocchi Bar
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As the name suggests, 48H Pizza e Gnocchi Bar specialise in, well, pizza and gnocchi. Two things that speak directly to our heart. With two locations in Elsternwick and South Yarra under their belts, the team here have got Italian food in their blood. Why the 48H part though? Well, according to these Italian connoisseurs, real pizza dough should be left to rise for 48 hours. This place honours traditional cooking techniques with a great deal of respect and the dishes are evidence of true artisanal skill. With three types of gnocchi all made with gluten-free flour (potato, prawn and activated charcoal) and an extensive selection of pizza options as well, this is a must visit for any Italian food lover in Melbourne.
Must-try: Carbona vegetale alle vongole, activated charcoal gnocchi with Port Lincoln fresh vongole, yellow tomato, organic evo, chilli and green salt.
373 Malvern Road, South Yarra, Melbourne 3141
Sun – Thu: 5 -10pm, Fri – Sat: 5 -11pm
10. Botticelli of Brighton
Imagine sauce blending in perfectly with authentic Italian pasta. You can't get any better than that. 😍 Order our pasta special and get a glass of wine and a fresh garden salad with your pasta. 🤤 ❤️️ . . . #botticelliofbrighton #italianfood #authenticitalian #melbournenightlife #woodfiredpizza #linguine #pasta #pastalover #pizzalover #spaghetti #shiraz #melbournepasta #brightonvictoria #moderndining #madeinmelbourne #thatsmelbourne #melbournebayside #eatmelbourne #melbourneeats #foodporn #nomnom #datenight #melbournefoodies #foodiemelbourne #foodie #instafood #instapizza #melbourneyum #foodpic
A Melbourne institution, Botticelli of Brighton has been in the restaurant game for quite some time now. In fact, restaurateur Salvatore Gargiulo was born in Sorrento where he learned everything he knows in his family kitchen. Needless to say, the level of expertise is unparalleled. The atmosphere is warm, inviting and you end up feeling like you’re part of the family. So, if you love traditional, authentic Italian cuisine and damn fine wine, this is the Italian restaurant in Melbourne for you.
Must-try: Ravioli d’anatra duck ravioli with sage and merlot sauce.
40A Church Street, Brighton, Melbourne 3186
Tues – Sun: 12pm – late
11. A25 Pizzeria Melbourne
Pizza has become one of the most Instagrammable things to eat these days, and nowhere does it better than A25 Pizzeria. Their concept is all about making pizza sexy… yep, you read that right. Named after the motorway connecting Rome to the coastal town of Pescara, this Melbourne group have pizza extraordinaire Remo Nicolini at the helm, so you know it’s going to be fresh, creative and effortlessly cool. You’ll find traditional pizzas, crazy pizzas and a range of aesthetically pleasing cheese and cured meat boards in their South Yarra, Docklands and CBD venues. Take a walk on the wild side and visit this spot.
Must-try: Bunga Bunga pizza topped with Italian pork sausage, porcini mushrooms, tomato, fior di latte, parsley and grated parmesan.
Shop 3/ 399 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne CBD 3000
Mon – Fri: 7am – 10pm, Sat: 8am – 10pm, Sun: 8am – 9:30pm
12. Il Bacaro
One of the most intimate and alluring Italian restaurants in Melbourne, Il Bacaro is truly an exceptional dining spot. Located in the Little Collins enclave, Il Bacaro is considered to be one of the best Italian restaurants in Melbourne – and we wholeheartedly agree. One for special occasions, the service is exceptional, the space is chic and the atmosphere is electric. Oh and did we mention that the menu is a work of art? Charming and sensory, dining here is one experience you definitely deserve.
Must-try: Spaghettini cicale di mare with Moreton Bay bugs, olio visadi, garlic, chilli and rocket.
168-170 Little Collins Street, Melbourne 3000
Lunch: Tues – Sat: 12 – 4pm
Dinner: Tues – Sat: 6 – 10:30pm
13. Santoni Pizza Bar
Sleek, stylish and cool as a cucumber, Santoni Pizza Bar is the place to be in Melbourne. Set within a three-storey building in Hawthorn, Santoni boasts an interior paying homage to the 1960s and a stunning open-air rooftop terrace. Born out of a passion to make nonna proud, you’ll find crispy pizzas with blistered crusts, fresh and creative pastas and plenty of cured meats here. Start on the terrace with an aperitif and antipasti while taking in the views of the iconic Glenferrie Road, then round it off with a classic Italian main or mouthwatering pizza… and be sure to sample the dolci before you leave. An Italian restaurant in Melbourne for literally any occasion, we’re quite sure you’ll love it here.
Must-try: Bucatini carbonara with speck, 62-degree egg, pecorino and black pepper.
634 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn East, Melbourne 3122
Sun – Mon: 11 – 11pm
14. Eat'aliano by Pino
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Eat’aliano by Pino is a unique blend of classic Italian bistro and hipster haunt. This Italian restaurant in Melbourne on High Street in Windsor is an homage to the time-tested recipes passed down through the Italian generations. The pizza is Neapolitan-inspired, cooked in a custom-built pizza oven shipped from Napoli… So believe us when we say that they’re serious about pizza. You’ll also find handmade gnocchi, fresh pasta and a healthy cocktail and wine list on the go. Memorable, lively and delightfully ‘Melbourne’, we’re big fans of this one.
Must-try: Pappardelle con agnello pasta served with slow-cooked lamb ragu.
122 High Street, Windsor, Melbourne 3181
Lunch: Sun – Mon: 12:30 – 3pm
Dinner: Sun – Mon: 5:30 – 10pm
15. La Spaghettata
A Lygon Street institution, La Spaghettata is an iconic Italian restaurant in Melbourne. Here you’ll find nostalgic decor, neon signs, a lively and chaotic (in all the right ways) atmosphere and truly wonderful food. It’s no wonder that they’ve been cooking up a storm for over 35 years. Family owned and operated, the passion is felt in everything here. The dishes are time-tested, honest and delicious – and, we just can’t get enough.
Must-try: Linguine alle cozze pasta filled with black mussels, tomato and garlic.
238 Lygon Street, Carlton, Melbourne 3053
Lunch: Mon – Thurs: 11 – 3pm
Dinner: Mon – Thurs: 5 – 11pm, Fri – Sat: 11am – Midnight, Sun: 11 – 11pm