Lygon is a well-known street in Melbourne, but it often takes the brunt of unjustified criticism. It's true that many restaurants in Carlton's Italian restaurant precinct (roughly the blocks between Queensbury Street and Elgin Street) prey on tourists. Nevertheless, hidden among the chequered tablecloths are a great many excellent restaurants.
Carlton's restaurant scene is currently undergoing something of a renaissance, and the changes brought about by this trend are starting to manifest themselves on the city's most famous street. If you're looking for authentic Italian food, don't expect to find it too far from the norm just because there are so many restaurants to choose from today.
Best Restaurants on Lygon Street
Lygon Street's abundance of eateries is staggering, as is that of the area's hawkers.
Both claim to have the best carbonara in the southern hemisphere, with one boasting that they use 400 different kinds of cheese on their pizza and the other boasting that they use 500 different kinds of cheese. Both are fine options, but if you look a little deeper you'll find a wide range of cuisines, from the spiciness of ramen to the modernity of Australian fare.
Although the first few entries on this list are some of the best Italian eateries Carlton has to offer, it's best to keep an open mind about which section of the street you'll be visiting and what kind of cuisine you'll be craving.
Carlton Wine Room
Carlton Wine Room reopened in February 2018 after renovations. Andrew Joy and John Paul Twomey moved into this 19th-century building. Drummond and Faraday streets are tree-lined.
In the middle of the high-ceilinged room is a marble bar, and behind it, instead of liquor bottles, are rows upon rows of backlit glassware. In the centre of the space, there is also a large oval table for group work or discussion.
Due to the five tiers, the area feels much smaller than it actually is. The second-floor addition serves as a sizable secondary dining area. Two private event spaces, each one floor up, can be reached by continuing to ascend the stairs. In addition, a bluestone basement has been turned into a secluded dining room that can accommodate up to 20 guests in comfort.
The menu offers a posh take on modern Australian fare, with European influences, a focus on seasonal ingredients, and a focus on wine. Kingfish crudo is a monochromatic dish consisting of raw fish slices on a bed of creme fraiche, with rough slices of napa cabbage and shaved horseradish sprinkled on top.
This building, formerly Da Salvatore Pizza by the Metre, has seen better days. Some historical record-keeping has been preserved. Terrazzo flooring, 1970s-style wood panelling, and terracotta wine racks behind the bar make Leonardo's look old.
In the front bar, where neon Coors Light branding glows, a DJ spins tunes by artists like Journey, Johnny Cash, and No Zu. The brick archway is just one of several similar structures. Beanie-clad bartenders are standing by to fill your order of a longneck of Melbourne beer, a glass of minimal intervention wine, and a plate of crostini.
The dining area, which is decorated like a den, serves authentic Italian cuisine. With the window shutters down, it could be day or night outside, but it would always be dark inside. Screams and laughter can be heard coming from the front bar area.
It's the sort of place where it's easy to lose track of time and wind up dirtier than you planned to be when you started out. You'll have a hard time finding a quiet moment here. The fact that reservations can be made over the phone should come as a relief to you. The wait staff hustles across the red carpet and between the leather booths.
Photographs of the original owner, Salvatore Mercogliano, making pizza in the 1970s can be seen framed on the walls. You can also find vintage black and white photos of spaghetti-loving bombshells like the Beatles and Marylin Monroe.
The chef at the Leonardo works in a kitchen with an arched opening that overlooks the dining area from behind. Modern pizzas include pork and fennel sausage with garlic oil and sage and anchovy.
Made-from-scratch pizza and pasta aren't the only things coming out of the kitchen; there are also plenty of shareable and friendly dishes that are ideal for the night's raucous beginning. (The coasters read backwards because the phrase "drink and dine" is printed in reverse.) You can start off with some salt and vinegar marinated jalapenos that are blisteringly hot, or you can try some fried sardines topped with whipped bottarga and served on paper-thin crostini.
Chef Wall created the simple and approachable dishes after studying them in his native United States. Slices of cured ham (prosciutto or pork neck gabagool) and sourdough toasts with a spicy pickled fennel relish are offered as an appetiser. Ballarat is where the prosciutto is produced. A cheese pizza with fresh and aged mozzarella, plus pecorino, came next. Wall calls the sag at the tip of the drink "the New York flop," and he describes it as having a fermented, slightly sour base with a nice char. Pizza delivery can be ordered from the comfort of your own home via the Capitano's website.
Pasta shaped like guitar strings (chitarra) is served with a clam broth and dashi reduction flavoured with butter, parsley, and lemon. A dish of this calibre does not need to be dissected and explained because of its subtlety and finesse.
To make these salads, young kale and wild greens are tossed in an anchovy-flavored dressing and topped with grated parmesan cheese for a tangy, bright bite. Meatballs stuffed with ground beef, pork, and fennel pair well with apple slices, fresh fennel, and aged ricotta. Everybody can help themselves to the dry-aged steaks, veal parmigiana, and lasagne that have been prepared for the group.
Wine plays a major role in the atmosphere at Bar Liberty. When compared to Liberty's list, Capitano's is shorter and more selective, including only a select group of producers who "don't muck around too much" with their wines. About 95% of the wines are either produced in Italy or use Italian grapes. Red wines are light, loaded with acidity, and have bright fruit flavours that pair well with tomato-based sauces, while white wines are more textural and lighter in weight and have a more subtle, savoury quality.
Some of the best artisan pizza in Melbourne can be found at this restaurant, which is owned by the same people behind DOC Espresso, DOC Mornington, DOC Albert Park, and DOC Delicatessen. In this recipe, we use only the finest imported ingredients (the menu features a map that identifies the countries from which the ingredients originate, which is helpful).
It's the best place to go if you want to eat pizza the way Italians do, with simple but ingenious topping combinations that don't overwhelm the crust or the taste buds. Not at all thick. It has a crunch that is characteristic of freshly baked pizza.
Second place goes to the mozzarella bar.
Smoked fior di latte, one of three varieties you should try, has a flavour so intensely ashy that it will blow your mind. Also, don't forget to check out the bright red meat slicer that sits atop a pedestal.
A simple and uncomplicated aesthetic characterises this cramped corner wedge of the restaurant. On a typical night, it can be difficult to navigate between the many crowded tables, but that's the point: to have fun while eating great pizza.
Italian food has long been a draw for tired travellers, so the Lygon restaurant strip has become a popular destination for out-of-town guests. The DOC (formerly Carlton) Espresso shop is here to serve the local gourmets and the bewildered visitors.
After starting out as a cafe serving coffee, Italian hot chocolate, and bomboloni (bombe), DOC Espresso has expanded its menu to include pasta and focaccia. Maintaining continuous opening hours every day of the week. Breakfast focaccias and piadinas stuffed with delicious ingredients like prosciutto San Daniele and buffalo mozzarella from Pugliese are the newest addition to the menu.
After lunch, keep an eye out for the daily pasta special that's made fresh in-house. Additionally, I recommend trying some of their spun it (snack) selection, which includes cured meats and cheeses and goes great with a bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo or a pint of Peroni.
Still, the menu has grown, and the coffee maker is bigger. The Saturday night special now features the bombe. Even with the DOC juggernaut (DOC Delicatessen next door, DOC around the corner, DOC Mornington, and DOC Albert Park) in the area, this neighbourhood hangout retains many of the qualities that made it popular before.
The locals fully endorse its intended meaning of "I love you" as stated in the word's etymology. Tiamo, a cosy Italian restaurant on Melbourne's Lygon Street, has been so successful that it has opened a sister restaurant, Tiamo 2, right next door. Pizza is the house speciality at Tiamo 2, which opened in 2010. There is something about the well-loved first edition that continues to draw in new buyers.
It began in the 1970s as a small family business and has thrived ever since. Black and white chequered floor, dim, isolated tables, and coffee bar by the front door are all brightened by the staff's upbeat chatter as they move enormous pasta dishes to and from the kitchen nook.
Lunchtime treats are worth planning for, like bowls of brodo that provide a mildly sweet broth, sprinkled with pillowy ravioli and fresh parsley, mopped up with mountains of buttered, crusty white bread, or plates of vibrant, ruby red Napoli pasta peppered with verdant green basil. You can find both of these dishes in Naples.
A popular place to have dinner, there is usually a wait, but the helpful staff ensures that the wait is not too long, and in the meantime, you can peruse the menu with a glass of hearty house-red in hand.
Large groups of middle-aged Italian men can be seen relaxing at the bar in the front window as the young barista prepares the coffee orders and teasing each other with friendly jeers. Getting to Italy might be impossible, but you can come awfully close.
Pizza and slightly updated versions of classic Italian dishes are what make Tiamo 2, which opened in 1996 as an extension of the wildly successful Tiamo Coffee next door, so well-liked.
The restaurant's Lygon street-side tables create an authentic Italian atmosphere before you even step inside the sleek and unfussy interior. The atmosphere here is what makes it stand out from similar establishments, but the decor is nothing to write home about.
There is a genuine family-party vibe here, like you're at your cousins' house and they're yelling at your uncle across the room while serving you pizza and pasta. The two-story layout and relatively loud evening ambience are drawbacks.
You shouldn't be surprised if you have to double-check some of the items you ordered because the service quality varies, despite the positive and relaxed vibe.
In a time when we place such a premium on modern conveniences and home enhancements, it is refreshing to remember the past and honour those who came before us. The wine saloon, which had opened in the 1890s, was transformed into one of the earliest wine bars in the United States by Jimmy Watson in 1935. His offspring and progeny are dedicated to keeping the company going.
There has not been much of a change to the space since the famous architect Robin Boyd redesigned the main restaurant in 1963. The upstairs area, with its plush sofas and classic bar, is frequently booked for special occasions. An original door from the historic Pentridge Prison is featured.
The 2012 additions are more defiant than the older ones. Small and eccentric, The Wolf's Lair is known for its wide selection of speciality cocktails. During the warmer months, many people congregate on the Astroturf-covered rooftop, which also features crates and comfortable cushions.
Food, like a hearty bowl of seafood bouillabaisse or a juicy steak with a glass of red wine, can be a reliable source of solace. Moreover, there is a price-conscious pizza menu to choose from.
The wine list is a showcase of the finest examples of each region's signature varietal. Pinot noir is typically sourced from the Mornington Peninsula or Central Otago rather than the Margaret River region. Some of the best Shiraz in the world is produced on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.
The highly coveted Jimmy Watson Trophy, named after the late industry pioneer Jimmy Watson, is given annually to the best one- or two-year-aged red wine. Awardees are chosen each year by a panel of experts at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. The pinot noir from Home Hill Winery's Kelly's Reserve and the syrah from SC Pannell in the Adelaide Hills are just two of the many wines that have won awards in the past.
Di Stasio Pizzeria
Rinaldo "Ronnie" Di Stasio and Mallory Wall have opened a third Melbourne restaurant. Di Stasio Pizzeria is their latest venture. First time in company history, pizza will be offered.
The restaurant is divided into the front Bar Sport, the Ladies' Lounge, and the Caravaggio Room, named after the Italian painter who was active in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
As in his previous work for Hassell Architects, Citta, Di Ritter integrated the restaurant and gallery spaces. Large-scale works by Reko Rennie and Shaun Gladwell bring colour and freedom to the rooms.
It's possible that "il cortile," which means "the courtyard," is the name of a different restaurant or even a different country. Two-person tables can be found in the narrow corridor that connects the eatery to the neighbouring Grown Alchemist shop. The water fountain, made of Italian stone and dating back to the 17th century, can be heard as one walks along the gravel path. An elaborate green bar with dozens of plants in decorative pots and urns completes the scene.
Up to nine pizzas are available on the tick-box menu, from Margherita to lobster, lard, fior di latte, and herbs. Every Martini comes with iced basil and olives.
Chef Federico Congiu uses Gippsland's own St. David Dairy jersey milk in his fior di latte. San Marzano tomatoes are grown on the owners' land in Yarra Valley, and a custom flour blend is milled for use in the owners' pizzeria in Tamworth.
Small or large portions of primi are available, and they feature dishes like fish carpaccio dressed in a whey dressing made from the byproducts of the cheesemaking process. For the main course, you could try a Berkshire pork cutlet Milanese-style. Trip frittata is one of several pastas and snacks available (salty, deep-fried tripe batons served with lemon).
If you only have room for one dessert, try the fior di latte soft serve; it's salted, drizzled with Mount Zero olive oil, and has olive-oil cake bursts underneath. Make fior di latte soft serve your one indulgence.
Heartattack and Vine
Both Heartattack and Vine are ultra-contemporary businesses, but they are influenced by classic Italian hospitality and the long tradition of Lygon Street.
The Venetian version of tapas, known as cicchetti, is prepared in full view of the diners at the room's impressive wooden bar.
Emily Bitto and Nathen Doyle owned A Minor Place and Wide Open Road. Cicchetti's seasonal menu includes slow-cooked meatballs and baccala on crostini.
The bar, which focuses on Italian cuisine, offers a selection of wines from around the world as well as Australian wines, as well as an extensive collection of vermouths. Two examples of such vermouths are the Catalan Casa Mariol 'Vermut' Negre and the Italian Contratto Rosso.
Start your day off right with a hearty European breakfast at Heartattack and Vine, featuring Noisette pastries and Wide Open Road coffee. The lunch menu is as uncomplicated as the dinner menu, with options like a salt-rubbed porchetta roll and a poached prawn on brioche with lime and dill mayo.
In the evenings, people gather for cicchetti and drinks of all kinds. Before entering the theatre, visitors can grab a bite to eat at one of the nearby restaurants or relax on one of the communal kerbside benches.
The Green Man’s Arms
Formerly the owners of The Terminus in Abbotsford and Yarra Valley Grand, Alison Whyte and her husband Fred Whitlock have expanded their hospitality empire with the opening of Green Man's Arms. Yarra Valley is the home of Green Man's Arms in Victoria, Australia. The former's eccentric art collection is well-known to regulars, who will recognise the works hanging on the walls.
On the menu, vegetarians and vegans will find a wide selection of salads, as well as vegetarian and vegan versions of traditional Israeli dishes like tabbouleh, hummus, and falafel. When making CousCous in-house, they use a time-honored technique where the dough is rolled out by hand. All ingredients are purchased from Whyte and Whitlock's if at all possible.
FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants
Lygon St is famous for its restaurants, cafes, bars and liveliness. It's part of Melbourne's CBD and runs all the way up through the city's northern suburbs.
400 Gradi is the best Italian restaurant on Lygon Street. The restaurant specialises in wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and mains.
Confusion abounds over who the street was named after: it might have been Lord Lygon from the 1830s. David predates the 'Italian' Carlton, born in the 'Jewish' Carlton. By the 1950s, the Italian coffee houses began to move in.
Little Italy in Victoria, Australia (sometimes referred to as the "Italian Precinct" or simply "Lygon Street"), is a "Little Italy" cultural precinct of the Italian community of Melbourne. It is situated along Lygon Street in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Carlton.
Lygon Street is synonymous with the Italian community of Melbourne, forming the nexus point of Little Italy. It is home to many Italian restaurants and alfresco cafés.
Lygon Street in Melbourne is often unfairly criticised. Don't expect to find authentic Italian food too far from the norm just because there are so many restaurants today. The Leonardo was formerly Da Salvatore Pizza by the Metre. The menu features modern Australian cuisine with European influences and seasonal ingredients. Modern pizzas include pork, fennel, garlic oil, sage, and anchovy.
The menu includes a map of the ingredient countries. 95% of wines are Italian or use Italian grapes. Pizza delivery can be ordered online. DOC Espresso offers pasta and focaccia. The bombe is on Saturday night.
The wine list features each region's best varietal. Di Stasio Pizzeria will offer pizza for the first time. Heartattack and Vine serve Italian-style food. Cicchetti, Venetian tapas, are made in full view. Try fior di latte soft serve with olive oil cake bursts.
- Carlton's restaurant scene is undergoing a renaissance, and the changes are appearing on its most famous street.
- Best Lygon Street Eateries
- Lygon Street's restaurants and hawkers are plentiful.
- Although the first few entries on this list are some of the best Italian restaurants on Carlton, keep an open mind about which section you'll be visiting and what you'll be craving.
- The menu features European influences, seasonal ingredients, and wine.
- Leonardo's Pizzeria
- This once-Pizza by the Metre building has seen better days.
- The den-like restaurant serves authentic Italian food.
- Chef Wall created the simple, approachable dishes in the U.S.
- Capitano's website offers pizza delivery from home.
- Bar Liberty's atmosphere revolves around wine.
- Starbucks EspressoDOC The Lygon restaurant strip is popular with tourists because of its Italian food.
- After serving coffee, Italian hot chocolate, and bombe, DOC Espresso now serves pasta and focaccia.
- Tiamo, a cosy Italian restaurant on Melbourne's Lygon Street, opened Tiamo 2 next door.
- Tiamo 2Pizza and updated versions of classic Italian dishes make this 1996 extension of Tiamo Coffee so popular.
- Jimmy Watson-like symptoms
- In a time when we value modern conveniences and home improvements, it's refreshing to honour the past.
- Jimmy Watson transformed the 1890s wine saloon into one of the first wine bars in 1935.
- The Wolf's Lair is known for its unique cocktails.
- The Jimmy Watson Trophy, named after industry pioneer Jimmy Watson, goes to the best one- or two-year-old red wine.
- Experts at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show choose winners each year.
- Pizzeria "Ronnie" Di Stasio and Mallory Wall opened "Di Stasio"
- Federico Congiu makes fior di latte with Gippsland's St. David Dairy jersey milk.
- Both Heartattack and Vine are ultra-contemporary businesses influenced by classic Italian hospitality and Lygon Street tradition.
- Cicchetti, the Venetian version of tapas, are prepared at the room's impressive wooden bar.
- The Bittos owned A Minor Place and Wide Open Road.
- The Italian-focused bar offers international wines, Australian wines, and vermouths.
- Alison Whyte and Fred Whitlock opened Green Man's Arms after owning The Terminus and Yarra Valley Grand.
- Green Man's Arms is in Australia's Yarra Valley.
- Vegetarians and vegans can choose from a variety of salads and vegetarian versions of Israeli dishes like tabbouleh, hummus, and falafel.