Melbourne Food Review: Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, City 12

the trio: pasta, buttered bread and fruit cup

Pellegrini’s is one of my absolute Melbourne favourites. Very Italian. Very home cooked. No frills. Just a great serving of fantastic pasta and coffee (and if you have room, dessert) and you’ll end up a very happy person. Provided that you don’t get on the wrong side of the waiters and get yelled at, of course.

Rowena came to town. I was tossing up between a few choice Melbourne favourites but fate prompted us and we ended up at Pellegrini’s. What a night! It ended up being the most fun night at Pellegrini’s we ever had.

Sisto Malaspina, own of Pelligrini's Bar

(Sisto Malaspina, one of the owners, who is also very entetrtaining)

Now I’m in the process of writing up a post on Pellegrini’s How To because let’s face it this place needs a bit of initiation. So I won’t go into details here. But the very first thing on that post will be the kitchen seats are the best seats in the house. So we went straight through.

Pelligrini's Kitchen

(Pellegrini’s kitchen)

Luckily, the space was free and we happily grabbed it. Our complimentary buttered bread arrived, two thick slices each. Way too much considering I was eyeing the desserts big time.

penne alla carbonara

(Penne alla Carbonara – $15?)

I had a craving for a carbonara that night, so I quickly ordered carbonara. Our chef tonight isn’t the usual old lady but a younger dark-haired one (never caught her name). She grumbled a lot, slagged off the (new) waiter, complained about the health inspectors, men, soccer team and certain ‘long time’ customers. But she made carbonara in the most amazingly effortless way. I was watching the way she made the carbonara. She just simply cracked an egg into the pasta (with the heat on purgatory setting), fumbled around looking for a spoon to stir 5-6 seconds later. You know what? It scrambled a bit. But so what? It was yummy. There goes the whole idea of being careful when making carbonara! Did I mention the dish took her about 30 seconds to make in total? Oh yeah, there is no cream in a Pellegrini’s carbonara. Don’t be silly.

penne with bolognese sauce and meatball

(Penne with Bolognese sauce and meatball- $15?)

A minute later, Rowena’s penne with Bolognese sauce and meatball arrived and I immediately felt envy. The meatball was huge. I don’t remember having a taste of it but she thought it was great. What was the best thing for her was the drama that went on the kitchen. The lady making food was absolutely hilarious. I told Rowena before taking her there that there’s usually a fight going on between the kitchen and the dining room, very Italian style and that there would be a lot of yelling. She didn’t believe me, of course. Until she experienced it for herself.

cannelloni with veal and spinach

(Cannelloni with veal and spinach – $15?)

Josh wanted a gnocchi of sorts but was sadly told ‘Gnocchi Friday only’.  Sisto wandered in and commented that he would be waiting quite a while for gnocchi, so he decided on a cannelloni with veal and spinach instead.

Me: Was it good?
Josh: Yes.
Me: How good?
Josh: Very good!
Me: Was it better than Dweezil’s?
Josh: I think so.

Pelligrini's lasagna

(Lasagna – $15?)

Chris joined us later and opted for a lasagna. Now Josh may make the Best Lasagna in the World, but Pellegrini’s is the master. The Anglo-Aussie boy only has love to win the day!

fruit cup

(Watermelon granita – $3.00, Fruit Cup – $4.00)

I also ordered a fruit cup, which is Pellegrini’s famous watermelon granita with fruits in it. Their coffee is usually also very amazing but it was dinner and I didn’t need the caffeine. Row opted for a plain granita.

creme caramel

(Creme caramel – $5?)

Dessert time, our very entertaining chef told us to just go and look at the desserts at the counter and have a pick. Not being in the mood for adventure, I went for the old favourite creme caramel. Pellegrini’s Creme Caramel is the best I have ever had. It’s strong, it’s gutsy, it’s creamy. It’s just what I love in creme caramel. This time, it was served with cream (I think you had a choice but I don’t remember ever being asked). It was good as usual.

passionfruit lattice pie

Josh and Chris both went for the passionfruit pie. It was rather good too.


Rowena had the cheesecake. To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember what kind of cheesecake it was or what it tasted like. I was seriously struggling with my creme caramel.

Pelligrini's Espresso Bar, Burke St., Melbourne City

All in all, it was a great fun night out. Definitely an initiation to an out-of-towner with a very, very Melbourne* experience.

Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, 66 Bourke St., Melbourne 3000 VIC

Pellegrini's Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

* I just watched the Australia episode (it’s all about Melbourne so I’m not too sure why they call the episode Australia) of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, the way he pronounced Melbourne just annoyed me. For the record, it’s Melbun.

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12 thoughts on “Melbourne Food Review: Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, City

  • Scottyfella

    hi ss&s, just read your review and thought I would make comment. I was a regular at this place for years…generally for a coffee before work. I called in this week for the first time in ages. One of the staff recognised me and just said to me nothing changes and it hasn’t. Food is not fantastic but it hits the spot and as you said is a fun place. Keep up the good work … enjoyed your site.

    • spatulaspoonandsaturday

      i actually rather think the food is fantastic actually. but it is the whole combination of huge servings of home made food. i mean this isn’t fine dining and people shouldn’t expect it. im one of those people who could just eat buttered toast an think its fantastic. so i guess to me theres no difference between fantastic and hitting the spot. but i do understand what you mean.

      thanks for visiting :)

  • Foodlover

    Loved your post! I always walked past the place, but have never eaten there – and I sometimes struggle to find a good place for a quick meal in that end of town. Will give it a go. :)

  • michael

    tried eating at this place on boxing day, had pasta with napoli sauce and loved it!!!!

    Went again today and the food is awesome!!!!

  • Sean

    Hi there,

    I also love Pellegrini’s lasagne. One of my most favorite meals consists of lasagne, russian salad and fruit cup from this wonder filled establishment. My parents courted there, hence I have been eating there since the 1960’s. The first meal I had with my wife was at Pellegrini’s. Thats saying something as it was her first meal in Australia upon migrating to this country. The younger chef you speak of is a character. I think she has been working there for around ten years. She can cook as well as the other two women – Maria & Emma who have worked there since I was a baby. Pellegrinni’s food is delicious and nourishing. I’m a fussy pants gourmet and I believe that the food at this restaurant is very special and among Melbourne’s finest. For me – it is in my top three restaurants. To be honest I can think of similar style restaurants around the world such as Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles. Canters food is special too. Mouthful for mouthful – Pellegrinnis is Canter’s equal. My point is – Pellegrinni’s are world standard not just Melbourne standard. OMG – YOU FORGOT TO MENTION THEIR STRUDEL!!!!!!!!!! :)

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