Guidebook Carlton



“Everyone is strolling, window-shopping, sampling a gelato, or contemplating an aperitif,” is how Insight Guides Melbourne describes Lygon Street in the heartland of Carlton. “It’s at its most appealing in early evening, when it plays host to something that comes close to the traditional Italian passeggiata … cafes spill chairs and tables out on to the street, and bow-tied touts (or ‘spruikers’ in the Aussie vernacular) proclaim the merits of their particular restaurants …”

“Long the domain of students and academics for its proximity to the University of Melbourne, Carlton was also a slum in the 19th century and a refuge for European immigrants in the 20th century,” explains Dale Campisi in Melbourne Precincts. This pedigree helped create the suburb’s famous Italian food and wine scene, which is concentrated on popular Lygon Street. Leafy Rathdowne Street and Nicholson Street in North Carlton are local strips of restaurants and cafes, mostly Italian too…”

“The once-revered food precinct, the nation's best-known Little Italy, had been languishing in the culinary wilderness since the late 1980s … but now there's noticeable change in the air, a new wave. Serious food businesses, many of them helmed by well-travelled first-, second- and third-generation Italian Australians, have begun recolonising the area … hawking artisan produce, authentic ingredients and great food knowledge.” - Gourmet Traveller

A vast, crowded emporium of a café, Brunetti’s on Lygon Street “is a real Italian/Melbourne experience,” says Frommer’s Easy Guide to Australia. “If you can get past the mouth-watering array of excellent cakes, the café menu offers authentic Italian cuisine, done very well. The open kitchen allows you to watch the chefs in action; there’s a wood-fired pizza oven (imported from Italy) and a traditional gelatieri (ice-cream maker) at work.”

Then you come to “sleepy Rathdowne Village,” which is the true heart of Carlton for locals, according to Dale Campisi in Melbourne Precincts. “The stalwart of the strip is La Porchetta that spawned an international pizza and pasta franchise; its interior is a homage to the late owner and his love of Formula 1 racing and celebrity selfies. Gerald's Bar (food is simple traditional Italian: they cook, you eat – like a visit to Nonna’s house) is known city-wide for its extensive cellar and delicious degustation. By day, quality cafes take full advantage of the leafy avenue, including Tre Bicchieri and North. Trawling through the famous second-hander Alice’s Bookshop is a great way to spend a lazy afternoon, followed by a self-assembled impromptu picnic in lush Curtain Square, with produce from Clay, St Clements Green Grocer or Rathdowne Cellars.”

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