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Top 10: Carlton

/ 31 Jan 2019
Carlton has always been the go-to destination for authentic espresso and pizza with its rich Italian heritage, but a new wave of culinary openings has given this northside neighbourhood a modern-day renaissance.

1. King & Godfree

A Lygon Street corner synonymous with Italian heritage and produce has reopened bigger and better than ever with the return of King & Godfree. The façade of the heritage listed remains but the interior has been given more than just a new lick of paint with an espresso bar, an Italian delicatessen, grocery store, wine bar and restaurant, and stunning rooftop bar creating the feeling of an Italian market. The spacious rooftop, named after the infamous former local late-night hangout Johnny’s Green Room, features uninterrupted views across Melbourne’s skyline, live music, and a menu of Italian snacks. 293-297 Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria. (03) 9347 1619.

2. Pidapipo

Prior to the renaissance of King and Godfree, artisanal Italian gelataria Pidapipo has attract gelato lovers young and old to the Lygon Street address since opening in one of the ground-floor shopfronts. After initially opening as a pop-up in 2013, the popularity of the Italian-style gelato saw the shop move to a permanent location just a year later. The small batch gelato is made on site using only fresh fruit and natural flavours. Queues can still be found waiting patiently for the cold treat. It even features a Nutella fountain. 299 Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria, 3053. (03) 9347 4596.

3. Carlton Wine Bar

Carlton Wine Room occupies the treasured leafy corner of Drummond and Faraday Streets in old Carlton. After undergoing renovation, Carlton Wine Room opened in February 2018 by a team with Melbourne hospitality pedigree, including Marion and Cutler & Co. The property features three distinct dining spaces over three levels but share the theme of generous dishes, perfect for sharing. The food offering features a classic bistro influence with a respect for the changing seasons that work with wine, including a whole baby snapper, half roast chicken and Sher wagyu sirloin, eggplant, shiitake, black pepper. The wine list is forever evolving, almost weekly, to reflect the seasons and includes a daily ‘Staff Choice’ bottle served by the glass. 172-174 Faraday St, Carlton, Victoria, 3053. (03) 9347 2626.     

4. Baker D. Chirico

The substance matches the style at Baker D Chirico on Faraday Street, just off the popular Lygon Street. The bakery is a designer’s dream with a visually striking wooden counter and flowing wooden shelves from ground to roof complementing the craft bread and pastries. The second shop from baker Daniel Chirico, following the success of his first St Kilda location, features the famed pastries, croissant and nougat. Don’t expect to get a caffeine hit at the bakery with opting against including a coffee machine with an abundance of cafes in the neighbourhood. Though, visitors can get their fix next door either inside or through the window at the tiny but popular Market Lane Coffee. 178 Faraday St, Carlton, Victoria, 3053.  (03) 9349 3445.

5. Parco

Parco is part of a growing trend of tiny cafes in Melbourne. Located on a traffic island, Parco is a super cute and super small brunch bar next to Carlton’s Argyle Square. The former power substation resembles an inner-city pint-sized cottage with its red brick and green tiled roof. The middle-of-the-street kiosk serves all day breakfast, including a breakfast Banh Mi, Parco BLT with Kewpie Mayo and thick cut Brioche with ricotta. After sitting vacant for nearly 20 years, the café has been refurbished to include an outdoor al fresco courtyard with park bench seating. 2 Argyle Place, Carlton, Victoria, 3053. (03) 9348 1115.

6. Capitano

There’s no shortage of pizza and pasta offerings in Carlton but this Italian-American restaurant is from the team behind Fitzroy’s Bar Liberty. The publicans have transformed the former dark drinking den The Beaufort into a welcoming space with a rotating selection of Italian fare. Chef Casey Wall has developed an unfussy and friendly menu with pizzas inspired by New York made from house-made sourdough. While Capitano’s wine list isn’t as extensive as the 500-bottle offering at the sibling venue, the Carlton restaurant still has a strong vino focus. 421 Rathdowne Street, Carlton, Victoria, 3053. (03) 9134 8555.      

7. Leonardo’s Pizza Palace

Leonardo’s Pizza Palace had big shoes to fill when it opened in December last year – one-metre long shoes to be precise. Formerly the site of Da Salvatore Pizza by the Metre, the fun team behind southside establishment Leonard’s House of Love have crossed the river to open their pizza venture. The seventies-style restaurant is a perfect place to kick off the night with old-school Italian pizzas and a buzzing front bar. As their slogan says, Leonardo’s Pizza Palace is a place to “drink and dine”. 29 Grattan Street, Carlton, Victoria, 3053. (03) 9242 0666. 

8. ima Project Café

ima has bucked Carlton tradition with the opening of a Japanese-inspired café in the heart of the historic Italian neighbourhood. The brunch café has a strong focus on local and sustainable ingredients by embracing nose-to-tail dining and ugly vegetables rejected by supermarkets. Through a strict recycling program, ima look to minimise waste and carbon footprint on the environment while helping to raise the awareness to the public. ima transports visitors to Japan with its breakfast or lunch set, including market fish, rice, miso soup, pickles and onsen egg or the popular Menchi Katsu Burger. 169 Elgin Street, Carlton, Victoria, 3053. (03) 9348 1118.   

9. Kazuki

After establishing a strong following in the regional Victorian town of Daylesford, chef Kazuki Tsuya and his partner Saori relocated their acclaimed diner to Carlton in late 2018. A slow restaurant on a fast street, Kazuki’s is a place where flavours, service and interiors are harmonious. Kazuki brings of mix of Japanese and Australia to Carlton, combining classic French techniques with Japanese flavours and the highest quality Australian produce. 121 Lygon Street, Carlton, Victoria, 3053. (03) 9349 2223.

10. Henry Sugar

A wine bar with modern Spanish cuisine designed and created by Spanish Michelin-trained chef and owner Michael Baker, of former world’s best restaurant El Celler de Can Roca and Fitzroy’s Hell of the North. The small but rustic menu is complemented by co-owner Daniel Mason’s selection of innovative cocktails, natural wines and inhouse sodas. The neighbourhood venue offers outdoor dining when it’s warm and a roaring fire during the cooler months. 298 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, Victoria, 3054. (03) 9448 8196.

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