Maccheroni norma at Ibla. Photo: Carmen Zammit
Distracted by Bar Liberty opening on Johnston Street recently, foodie ambulance chasers overlooked Ibla Cucina Italiana, which had already been operating on the strip for a week.
It's the first restaurant from Emilio Tiesi, who earnt his stripes at Caffe e Cucina and grew up eating "the best food in the world".
He's full of anecdotes, like the time his nonna took 30 mortadella sandwiches to school to stop his mother being bullied for eating hers.
The stripped brick walls and exposed piping add industrial chic. Photo: Carmen Zammit
Tiesi and head chef Gianni Chiofalo (ex-Thirty Eight Chairs, Caffe e Cucina) named the Fitzrovian trattoria after a town in southern Sicily – the last stop of a vacation cut short in 2003. Although they never made it to Ibla, the menu is a tribute to Sicily.
The house gnocchetti with slow-cooked lamb ragu and pecorino has been the most popular dish; wurstel e patatine pizza (with sliced frankfurts and fries) is Sicilian stoner food, and you may not find pizzoli (pizza-sized quesadillas) anywhere else in Melbourne.
Tiesi did most of the fit-out himself, leaving the 1884 brick wall exposed and building shelves with cast-iron water pipes from his father's farm.
Ibla's wurstel e patatine pizza (with sliced frankfurts and fries). Photo: Carmen Zammit
The 28-seat venue takes bookings but there are aperitivi while you wait, Peroni on tap and a less-is-more wine list from Italy and the southern hemisphere.
Bring your appetite and look for the olive trees and Vespa out the front.
Open Tue-Thu 5.30pm-11pm; Fri-Sun noon-11pm.
256 Johnston Street, Fitzroy, 03 9416 2898, iblamelbourne.com.au