Melburnian Travis Lombardo spent the past decade living in Brooklyn, where he worked as a fashion photographer and flitted in and out of hospo.
He worked in places like the boisterous, bohemian Bushwick nightclub House of Yes (which he boldly calls “the Studio 54 of today”) and Pianos, an eclectic, surprisingly piano-less venue on the Lower East Side that’s a bar, nightclub, bandroom and restaurant all in one – “a melting pot of everyone in New York”, Lombardo says.
Now, he’s back in Melbourne and funnelling the best of the bars he worked at into Hotel Lombardo, a 100-seat Italo-American dive bar opening this winter. It’s a “a mishmash of everything I loved about New York rolled into one”, he says, and it’s set to replace one of Sydney Road’s wholesale Lebanese bakeries, near the Moreland Road intersection.
“You’ll enter via a back alleyway, and you’ll be not quite sure where you are,” Lombardo explains. The gate will open into a very green, very Aussie beer garden that has “absolutely nothing divey about it” – a stark contrast to what you’ll find inside.
In true dive-bar fashion, the main room will be moodily lit, blanketed in dark timber and filled with intimate booths. There’ll also be a pool table, a dance-floor disco ball, and – most remarkably – a shiny centrepiece pole for all-are-welcome pole dancing, inspired by House of Yes. “It encourages people to dance, it encourages a good time,” Lombardo says. “It only takes one person jumping on to get the party started.” Never has your upper-body strength had a more direct correlation to your party-starting capacity.
Food-wise, expect chilli-oil-doused Neapolitan-style pizza inspired by Brooklyn institution Roberta’s – the Calypso Mortadel will have pepper-studded mortadella, buttery stewed peaches and a hefty drizzling of treacle. Plus, there’ll be signature Negronis on tap (there’s already merch emblazoned with “Negroni Di Lombardo”), and frozen Margs galore (“We’ll be pushing the hell out of those,” Lombardo says).
Hotel Lombardo is set to open at 11–13 Sydney Road, Coburg, in winter.