Cafe Italia must be one of the most uncreative names for an Italian restaurant to assume, especially one that is tucked in a small lane connected to the little Italy of Melbourne, Lygon Street. Fortunately, it is also one that serves up very good authentic Italian cuisine in for pretty reasonable prices.
alfresco dining at Cafe Italia when weather permits
Incidentally, this is also one of Mell‘s housemates, Jun Wei’s favorite Italian restaurant in Melbourne. The eatery is located on a rather small 1-way University Street (between Melbourne University and Carlton Garden) and only has a small 3’x3’ sign on the outside. Pretty easy to miss especially since the place sorta look like a green house from the outside during cooler months.
spaghetti frutti di mare (seafood), fish special (barramundi)
The restaurant has three different area, conventional dining, private rooms, and court yard (which, as mentioned, converts to green house like area when it’s colder). Interior is tastefully decorated with a bar, wine racks, and plenty of plants. Very comfortable and yet not overly done.
The menu is not any different from most Italian restaurants, offering pasta, beef, lamb, fish, pizza, and of course, a variety of appetizers, desserts, and wine.
lamb chop, rigatoni ragu (pasta with eggplant)
I ordered the lamb special ($27.90)- a generous piece of char grilled lamb chop marinated with lemon and wine served on pea mash. The meat was tender, juicy, and the taste of the lemon and red wine marinate was just right. I was so glad I ordered it. The pea mash was interesting and I actually liked it better than mashed potato by quite a bit.
Mell had the pesce del giorno (fish special $28.90)) – a piece of barramundi (I think) fillet served with fire roasted peppers, brocolini, and lime saffron sauce. The seafood was fresh and sauce went well with the whole combination, no complains at all there.
Jun Wei, KY, Mell, Zehan
Zehan and Jun Wei had the rigatoni ragu (spaghetti with eggplant, $17.90) and spaghetti frutti di mar (seafood spaghetti $22.90) with both of them expressing approval for their dishes in terms of taste as well as presentation.
Comparing to the more student friendly (budget wise) places such as Cafe Notturno, Cafe Italia is 30-50% pricier, but if you look into the place, service, as well as food quality and taste factor, then it is a very worth while place to visit.
At the end, our bill came to just a bit less than $100 for the four of us (we only ordered water). Dollar to dollar, an excellent value don’t you think? Now I think I might need to go back there again for the next Melbourne trip.
56/66 University St,
Carlton Victoria 3053,
Tel: +613 9347 0638