Carlton will forever be associated with Italy. Italians made the suburb their own in the wake of World War II, bringing pizza, pasta, prosciutto and any number of other then-exotic foodstuffs with them. Melbourne would be a much more boring place today, had they stayed put.

Until the late ’90s, quaint, veranda-lined Lygon Street was undeniably the best place in town to experience these cultural riches, much as Victoria Street is for Vietnamese food today. There are still excellent spots such as D.O.C., Tiamo, Scopri and Kaprica, but if you're not careful, you might end up at a restaurant with a picture menu.

The cafe scene – again, kickstarted by Italian immigrants – is in better shape, partly thanks to the huge student population from nearby RMIT and University of Melbourne. Their presence gives Carlton a relaxed yet busy feel, with plenty of apartment buildings among the well-maintained terrace houses. It’s a great suburb to fritter away an afternoon, catching a movie at Cinema Nova; browsing the shelves at Readings; taking a walk through Carlton Gardens; or seeing what’s on at Melbourne Museum.

Restaurants

Taquito

Restaurant

This Mexican eatery makes its own tortillas and grows its own chillies and herbs. To drink, there’s wine on tap or you can buy mezcal from the in-house bottle shop.

DOC

Restaurant

A busy tightly packed pizzeria in Carlton, like something straight out of the boot-shaped country.

Capitano

Restaurant

Approachable, unfussy American-Italian food with fine-dining pedigree.

Kazuki's

Restaurant

Sleek, Euro-Japanese dining delivered in a multi-course format.

Lagoon Dining

Restaurant

Take a seat at the black granite bar for pork and chive dumplings, popcorn chicken with togarashi and cured pork belly with rolled rice noodles in XO.

Hakata Gensuke Carlton

Restaurant

Looking to avoid the lines at the original, which set the gold standard for Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen in Melbourne? Head to Carlton.

Cafes

Cafe John

Cafe

This eatery is all red terrazzo, tan leather and natural light, with the occasional retro nod. It’s serving simple eggs on toast, generous vegan salads, house-made pies and old-fashioned Cherry Ripe milkshakes.

DOC Espresso

Cafe

A pasta and focaccia bar of venerable mention on Lygon Street in Carlton.

Ima Project Cafe

Cafe

This Japanese-Australian eatery embraces “ugly vegetables” and local art and design.

Parco

Cafe

Dench pastries, Coffee Supreme lattes and al fresco dining, all in a former power substation.

Vertue Coffee Roasters

Cafe

Carlton's shyest roastery and cafe is hidden down a laneway.

St Charly

Cafe

A lively brunch spot that takes inspiration from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Bars

Johnny’s Green Room

Bar

A rooftop bar with amazing views, serving modern Italo drinks and snacks.

Colour

Bar

A 24-hour nightclub with its very own bandroom.

Agostino

Bar

A modern take on the classic Italian enoteca, a 50-seat wine bar with house-made pasta, hard-to-find wines and waiters clad in head-to-toe white Japanese denim in an iconic heritage-listed building.

Leonardo’s Pizza Palace

Bar

A rollicking good-times pizzeria from the Leonard's House of Love crew.

Lord Lygon

Bar

Settle in at the red marble bar with a biodynamic wine and a plate of bourbon-and-Coke lamb ribs.

Prince Alfred Hotel Carlton

Bar

This is a student watering hole welcoming to all because its pleasures are pub classics: Toss the Boss, parmas and bottomless pancakes.

Shops

DOC Delicatessen

Shop

Authentic Italian deli by DOC's Tony Nicolini.

Lavezzi

Shop

Four generations of experience gives this traditional gelato, sorbet and granita shop a leg up.

Pidapipo

Shop

A gelataria that serves sweet brioche, has a chocolate tap and does affogato Italian style.

King & Godfree Deli

Shop

A food emporium with a history of bringing Italian food to Australians since 1884.

La Parisienne Pâtés

Shop

Authentic French food purveyors for gourmands and gourmets alike.

The French Lettuce

Shop

Find an enchanting display of cakes at this Carlton patisserie.