It takes some effort to stand out in a city blessed with excellent Italian options but the owners of the cultish Bar Liberty have managed such a feat, thanks to their pitch-perfect rendition of a New York red-sauce joint transplanted to city-fringe Carlton.
The rumours are true: Capitano does offer a $65 veal parmigiana (bone in, built for two) but that’s the sole big-ticket item in a sea of affordable Latin loveliness. Start with soft folds of gabagool (otherwise known as capocollo), the fat of the cured pork neck offset by the chilli-driven hum of pickled fennel, before moving on to the excellent blistery pizza topped with fiery ’nduja and three types of cheese then hit the pasta – maybe the Abruzzo-hailing egg spaghetti known as chittara, lavished with a buttery, garlicky sauce of clams and dashi.
The Rat Pack-worthy terrazzo floor and burgundy walls provide a serene mise en scène for a room buzzing with youthful brio.
Atmosphere: Bright, buzzy art deco style diner
Best for: Anything with red sauce
Cuisine: Modern Italian
Standout dish: The Tomato Pizza Pie
Open: Saturday-Sunday for lunch and seven days for dinner
Address: 421 Rathdowne Street, Carlton
Phone number: (03) 9134 8555