Third on our foodie blog list is our favourite Italian restaurants in Melbourne. We used to love eating at Italian restaurants at home, but none of them come close to the Italians we’ve found here. To be honest, we were very disappointed with the food in Italy whilst we were there in June 2015, and feel as though the following restaurants offer much more in terms of flavours, portion sizes and value for money.
This used to be one of our favourite restaurants to go to in Melbourne when we lived in Flinders Lane. It was only a short walk from our flat, played great old school RnB music that we love, and offered a generous portion of meatballs with your choice of sauce and side for only $22. As this was such a great deal we rarely tried other dishes apart from starters of Italian olives and warm bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When we wanted to go all out we even indulged in some of their desserts like their homemade ice cream sandwiches or the sticky toffee and date pudding. But honestly, the real winner is their meatballs - hence the name! They offer either pork, beef, chicken, fish or veggie meatballs with either Italian tomato, white creamy or basil pesto sauce and a choice of polenta, mash potato, house pasta or vegetable side dishes. So tasty, decent size portions and reasonable price. What more could you want from a quirky, modern Italian restaurant?
We were really intrigued when we discovered Vapiano. We went there one Sunday evening when we had been chilling out all day in our “slops” as Natalie likes to call them (i.e clothes for slopping about the house). We walked the short distance in the opposite direction to Meatballs and Wine Bar on Flinders Street thinking we could get a quick takeaway of pasta or pizza. Turns out the restaurant is pretty nice inside and there’s nowhere to hide your awful outfit. You actually become part of the cooking experience and queue up in an open plan kitchen area where you tell the chef directly what you want to eat. They then make it for you right there whilst you watch. For one thing, this means that you can tell them exactly how you would like your pizza/pasta, but it also means that you become mesmerised by the talented chefs cooking up your dish in front of you. It’s fun and interesting to watch and you really get sucked into watching everyone cook meals fresh. To pay, you get a small credit card type thing when you first enter which the chefs scan for you when you order your food. You then take this up to the counter after you’ve eaten your meal - or when you have the food in takeaway boxes ready to devour - and the till staff will scan it again letting you know how much you owe. Such a fun and unique restaurant idea and one we haven’t seen anywhere else.
3. Hardware Lane
Hardware Lane in Melbourne is known as little Italy. Everyone who works at the Italian restaurants down this street try and entice you in by offering you free garlic bread, a free glass of wine each, discounts on starters or desserts - pretty much anything they can to beat the competition and have you dine in their restaurant. We’ve tried two different Italian restaurants in Hardware Lane, both of which were great. The only downside is because they offer you discounts on a starter or dessert, you feel obliged to have one. And that’s when the bill can start to add up. It’s never been a cheap night when we’ve eaten down Hardware Lane, but if you love Italian food, we would definitely recommend having a wander to see which restaurant can entice you in the most.
4. Bar Napoli
This could be one of Jordan’s favourite places to eat on the weekend. Particularly if he’s hung over or needs some extra calories! This place is in the Emporium which happens to be underneath the apartment building that we live in so the location is ideal for us! Pizza is what Jordan normally orders - usually one of the meat ones on the specials menu. The pizzas are a really good size and are delicious. Jordan’s also had pasta from here before which sadly he said wasn’t as good as Vapiano, and they tend to overload on the parmesan cheese! But it’s worth a look if you’re hungry for pizza whilst you’re shopping in the Emporium.
Our final choice on this list of our favourite Italians in Melbourne might seem a bit random, but trust us. Cucina is based in the Crown Casino food court and offers a huge selection of fresh pastas, pizzas, paninis and risottos. Natalie honestly thinks their carbonara is the best she’s ever had! The food is all reasonable price and as it’s in a food court is easy to pass the time people watching whilst soaking up your pasta sauce with garlic bread. The only downside to this Italian is that because the food court is so busy, you often have to wander around for a little while to find a place to sit down and eat. We often dine here before or after going to the cinema in the Casino as it’s ideal for a quick and tasty bite to eat.
We’d love to hear your favourite Italian restaurants in Melbourne. If you’ve got any to recommend before we leave in 6 weeks, drop us a note on firstname.lastname@example.org.