At the heart of grand Victorian terraces, modern flats filled with, Carlton Gardens is Melbourne’s Little Italy. Lygon Street is the birthplace of Melbourne’s cafe scene, where post-war immigration saw the popularity of Italian hospitality, cuisine and culture in Melbourne surge. Pizza shops, espresso bars, gelaterias and delis aside; this article celebrates two of our favourite things, which together are an unmistakable combination: cheese and wine.
Choices! Where to begin with more than 180 cheeses on hand? Leave it to the experts and order a flight. Yes, flight. They’ll expertly pair cheese with, well, you need to make a choice here: wine, whisky, beer, cider, dessert wine, cognac, sake or sparkling. Blue cheese matched with a sweet bubbly? Magic. Only eat goat and sheep cheese? They’re quick to accommodate. It can get busy on weekends, though you can book for groups of six or more, so corral your friends.
323 Lygon St, Carlton, VIC, 3053 | (03) 9348 4771
Sample a range of wines by the half-glass and create your pairing experience. The focus here is on Italian and Italian-inspired wine, though you’ll find lesser-known wine by smaller producers. The menu is group-friendly; you’ll want to order a few dishes from the ‘meat and fish’ section and ‘salad and vegetables’ section. The roasted cauliflower is so tasty you’ll want to recreate it at home. The space is especially cosy in the cooler months every detail has been thought through to make it warm and intimate (especially the private wine cellar, which you can book for events).
172174 Faraday St, Carlton, VIC, 3053 | (03) 9347 2626
Eighty-two years young and still run by the Watson family since 1935, this Lygon Street institution remains popular with a mixed bag of patrons. The neighbourhood restaurant attracts families and an older crowd, the courtyard is a favourite with couples and the rooftop bar is ideal for sunning with friends after work (or uni). This spot is a regular for many locals who enjoy its European charm and hospitality. Drop in for a drink before dinner, though give yourself time to make your way through their novel of a wine list.
333 Lygon St, Carlton, VIC, 3053 | (03) 9347 3985
It’s all about La Latteria’s award-winning buffalo mozzarella it’s perfection. But their ‘mozzarella laboratory’ also gives them lots of room to experiment with their other cheeses; a range of which are made daily. If you arrive early, you may catch them making the mozzarella. Attending a party soon? Be the one to enter with tomato and basil-filled bocconcini or go all out with a custom-made cheese platter with crackers, fruit paste and fruit. Party for one? Buy that cheese plate in box-form and take your cheese box over to Carlton Gardens for a solo picnic.
104 Elgin St, Carlton, VIC, 3053 | (03) 9347 9009
Alternatively, after you’ve picked up your cheese from La Latteria, scoot over to Bottega Tasca for a bottle of red and collect the makings of a successful date night. Let the staff know what’s on the menu, and they’ll happily make pairing recommendations. The wine selection leans toward the Italian grape varieties, and there’s plenty of local wine to choose from. Plus, you’ll do alright here if you’re a fan of Processo. Unattached? Stick with the itinerary above and grab yourself a juicy new-release from Readings bookshop down the street.
321 Lygon St, Carlton, VIC, 3053 | (03) 9347 7379