Lagotto feels like it belongs to its area, even though the chic eatery, smack bang on the border between Carlton North and North Fitzroy, is beneath a new apartment development. There’s a sense it’s been there a while. It fits. In the lead-up to opening, owners and siblings Katie and Michael McCormack (of Milieu Hospitality, also behind Congress and Future Future), ran a pop-up on the building site for six months, getting a sense of what locals felt the area needed.
For breakfast, there’s cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) eggs with pancetta; cured trout with peas, mint and ricotta; grilled sardines with a bight salsa verde; and a slightly tangy sheep’s yoghurt panna cotta with pear and al forno (oven-baked) muesli. For lunch, a heartier selection of Italian stalwarts come in the form of veal cotoletta with slaw; gnocchi Bolognese; and osso buco with soft, buttery polenta. Salads include cauliflower, chickpea, parsley, preserved lemon and almonds. And kale and cabbage with radish and peas.
Later still, an aperitivo menu offers light, share-friendly options for evening, such as Italian and locally sourced charcuterie (try the capocollo, a dry-cured pork salumi, from Mr Cannubi in Victoria); Western Port kingfish crudo with fennel and orange, (thoughtfully paired with a lively northern Italian soave); and caponata with soft chunks of torn buffalo mozzarella on top.
A grocery section stocks everything from homemade preserved vegetables, Italian olive oil, imported quick polenta and cold cans of Peroni Red to ready meals such as chicken cacciatore. You can also pick up a blend of Italian-style coffee roasted at the Abbotsford coffee incubator Bureaux Collective.
The drinks list includes a smart selection of imported and locally produced Italian digestives and aperitivos. Okar Applewood Amaro comes from the Adelaide Hills, and a classic-style vermouth by Maidenii is from central Victoria. There are just four Italian-leaning cocktails on the list, including a seasonal spritz (right now it’s Cocchi Americano Rosa, prosecco, lemon thyme and rhubarb).