The heart of ‘Little Italy’, Lygon Street has long been a favourite of Melbourne’s students and other locals. With so much on offer, visitors are spoilt for choice, and the only guarantee is having a good time.
Heartattack and Vine
Cafe, Tea , Pastries, $$$
The team behind Wide Open Road coffee, a Melbourne favourite, found the inspiration to open this cozy café and bar on a trip to Europe. Modelled after the day-and-night cafes of Italy, Heartattack and Vine is the best place to get your morning fix. They offer a range of speciality coffees, snacks, and light options for lunch. Come in the evening and settle in for a drink, whether it be a fine wine or something stronger, and mingle with the students who have almost definitely been there all day, working and appreciating the relaxed atmosphere.
When in Little Italy, eat Italian. Il Gambero, towards the south of the street and opposite the green Argyle Square, does some of the best pizzas and pastas around, and for a reasonable price as well. They offer takeaways, so you can have your food in the park if it’s a nice day. Otherwise, the atmosphere inside is jolly and cheerful. The restaurant’s reputation draws in many special occasions and regulars, so it’s always busy and bustling with conversation. The only downside of this is that a booking is recommended if you want to eat in.
If you find yourself with a few spare moments on Lygon Street, or have just finished the only book you took on your travels, go straight to Readings. This celebrated bookstore also sells music and DVDs, and is run by friendly staff who know their stuff and will always have a recommendation, ever-ready to lend a helping hand. They won Bookstore of the Year at the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards and Independent Book Retailer of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards in 2016 and 2017 for a reason. Endless hours can be enjoyed browsing their massive range.
For an even more special dining experience, and a more toned-down vibe, 400 Gradi is not one to miss. It’s a bit of a walk up the road from the majority of Lygon’s attractions, but absolutely worth it. The founder, Johnny Di Francesco, has won countless awards and recognition, including the crown of World Pizza Champion from the Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza in 2014. His winning margherita is a must-order. Beyond this classic, there is an extensive list of authentic Neopolitan pizza options, including plenty for vegetarians. The perfect spot for foodies wanting a memorable and delicious dish.
Visit this venue during the day because after dinner, the line gets outrageous. This is no sacrifice, however. On a burning hot Australian summer day, grabbing a scoop or two from Pidapipò Gelateria is among the best ways to cool off. They’ve developed a cult following for the quality of house-made, artisanal gelato they serve, and the delicious flavours they come in, from traditional favourites to eclectic limited offerings. There’s no better place in Melbourne to tap into the sweeter side of Italian food culture. Their running Nutella tap is the perfect way to top it all off.
Known as the home of quality art-house cinema, Cinema Nova is the place to go to see the greatest current films. Whether it’s the latest Academy Award-winning films, or other great contemporary cinema, this inner-city cinema will be sure to show some the best recent films in its 15 theatres. Cinema Nova also offers in-cinema dining opportunities, wherein customers can select a single or three-course meal served in style and comfort in one of their luxury cinemas. Cinema Nova is located in the Italian quarter on Lygon Street, where you can find many of Melbourne’s best Italian restaurants, perfect for a pre- or post-film meal. If you’re looking for somewhere to have a quiet drink to discuss the film, Cinema Nova also has the Nova Bar, a chic cocktail and wine bar, perfect for a relaxed drink.
An iconic Melbourne establishment, Jimmy Watson’s has been around since 1935, serving locals and in-the-know visitors alike. As with all restaurants on Lygon, Italian food is on the menu. But, looking beyond this, there are plenty of other options for all three courses of a great meal, as well as gourmet cheeses and drinks, with the venue doubling as a wine bar. On a good day, sit up in the Wolf’s Lair Rooftop Bar, and pick over sharing plates with friends or family. If you’re visiting in the evening, check out Thin Red Line, the new 1930s-styled bar upstairs that combines old-school charm with great service.
Atticus Finch offers an old-world vibe and an extensive wine list, rotating beer taps and innovative cocktails | Courtesy of Atticus Finch
Named after character in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch does nothing to hide its creative aesthetic. The lure comes through a reputation for the best craft beers, boutique wines and cocktails around, with gourmet snacks to accompany, and once you’re in the door there’s no leaving. Sit in a comfortable corner, let your hair down, and have a great night. The fun atmosphere is helped by their record collection, on display for all to see and keeping the music going. Some nights a DJ can be found lifting everyone’s spirits even more.