Sometimes a new restaurant springs up that looks and feels like it has been there forever. Barbagallo opened in Melbourne while I have been living in London but it already seems to be a bit of an institution. It has that particular sleek Euro-Melbourne style which is so typical of my home town. The large space which houses the restaurant is elegant with good bones, a marble counter bisects the high ceilinged dining room. If you walk past the high round tables where people sit eating and drinking at bar stools and the open kitchen with its flaring grills you reach the big dining room at the back. Here you can have 15 people or so easily all around the same huge table which is perfect for a party or just communal style eating.
Restaurant now closed.
Fennel and sausage pizza
Perhaps the reason Barbagallo seems so entrenched in the Melbourne dining scene already is because the man behind it has been for years. Pietro Barbagallo is famous in Melbourne as the man behind the stalwart pizza restaurant i Carusi and now he has re-emerged with his own self named restaurant. The classic Italian menu reads beautifully in its simplicity. To start, bowls of warmed black olives slick with oil ($9) and perfectly rounded spheres of arancini ($13) oozing cheesy rice beneath their crisp breadcrumbed coating. I could complain and say the batter on the calamari ($16) was a bit tough but the calamari itself had the perfect amount of bounce and spring.
The main event though is the pizza, Barbagallo spent years honing his magic touch with pizza i Carusi and now with his name above the door, it is all about the dough at Barbagallo. It is thin based but with a bit of weight to it and cooked on stone in an electric oven to a smoky crisp. The iconic pizza on the menu is the slow roasted pumpkin which almost melts into the toasted pine nuts and rocket that are layered on top ($19). However, as is often the case the best topping we tried was the simplest with concentric layers of thin potato with onion caramelised to a point of sweetness draped over it ($19).
In fact, we had so much pizza that we had no room for dessert save for coffee or tea. While there may be a lot of contenders for the crown of Melbourne’s pizza king, Barbagello’s has certainly got a claim on the title. At Barbagello’s it is the classic Italian cooking which makes you feel that you are in safe, expert hands.
Details: Barbagello Trattoria e Pizzeria, 103 Lonsdale street, Melbourne 3000, Australia (Ph +61 3 9639 6222)
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my top ten Melbourne restaurants or for great pizza in London try Pizza East.