Bar Nonno

Hot stuff: The 'hot rocket' pizza at Bar Nonno.
Hot stuff: The 'hot rocket' pizza at Bar Nonno. Photo: Robert Prezioso

83 High Street Northcote, Victoria 3070

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Opening hours Tue-Sun 5pm-late
Features Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef David Murphy and Marco Vicentin
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9486 3255

When Sam Marazita emigrated from Calabria in the 1940s he bought a building in Northcote and opened a fruit shop. The store closed after 15 years because Sam got pretty busy making wine. (Indeed, his grandson Sergio Carlei is now winemaker at well-regarded Carlei Estate.)

Last January, a circle closed when Marazita's great-grandson David Carlei opened a restaurant in the old fruit shop premises and named it in honour of his "nonno Sam". That heart-warming continuity must account for a good chunk of the happy vibes here.

Bar Nonno's front room is welcoming but petite overlooked by a wall of biodynamic wines and a picture of nonno himself. It's a lovely surprise to be led through a narrow doorway into a large dining room that feels like a secret cave. This parlour is so atmospheric you'll likely end up with memories of jaunting around Tuscany, even if you've never been.

Happy vibes: Inside Bar Nonno.
Happy vibes: Inside Bar Nonno. Photo: Robert Prezioso

Italy is the inspiration but the menu is broader. Spuntini include perfect drinking snacks such as crisp arancini and Spanish-style chicken wings with smoky romesco sauce.

Cauliflower salads are ubiquitous but this version is a beauty; cauliflower and celery are chiacked towards tenderness, then tossed with toasted walnuts. It's nice to see celery – usually a base flavour – given a starring role.

Head chef David Murphy (ex-GGs and PM24) displays French technique in the main courses. There's no quibbling with the expert cooking of a snapper fillet but I found the addition of onion foam and fancy stripes of zucchini puree incongruous in this rustic setting.

Cheffy: Snapper fillet with onion foam and zucchini puree.
Cheffy: Snapper fillet with onion foam and zucchini puree. Photo: Robert Prezioso

Pizzaiolo Marco Vicentin brings it back down to earth with excellent thin-crust pizze and the gnocchi, made to Veronese specifications, has many staunch disciples. Desserts are good, especially the jammy apple tart.

Bar Nonno is a charmer that feels steadier than its years; surely that's because dear departed nonno Sam is embracing it too.

Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)

http://www.barnonno.com.au/