Heartbreaker's CBD pizzeria Connie's is becoming a full-blown Italian restaurant

What started as a pizza window is about to become a cheesy ode to casual Italian restaurants of the 1980s at the new ...
What started as a pizza window is about to become a cheesy ode to casual Italian restaurants of the 1980s at the new Connie's. Photo: Brook James

Connie's, the in-house pizza window at CBD bar Heartbreaker, has revealed to Good Food that it's taking flight in January, becoming a fully realised Italian bar and restaurant one floor up from its current home on the corner of Lonsdale and Russell streets. 

Owners Michael and Zara Madrusan (The Everleigh, Bar Margaux) say the new Connie's will combine the fun of Heartbreaker with a heavy dollop of Italo-Australian nostalgia, based on Michael's childhood growing up in his family's restaurants in the 1980s.

Look out for checked tablecloths, leadlight pendant lamps and dishes such as garlic bread and eggplant parmigiana. Connie's New York-style round and square pizzas are a nod to Michael's time living in Manhattan, as are baked clams and ziti.

Michael and Zara Madrusan will channel some of Michael's fondest memories of his family's Italian restaurants at the new ...
Michael and Zara Madrusan will channel some of Michael's fondest memories of his family's Italian restaurants at the new venue. Photo: Pete Dillon

"It's time to break the shackles," says Michael, who has planned much of the venue with Zara during lockdown. "This is not a serious venue in any way."

A jukebox loaded with soul and disco, a dance floor and a pool table are in store for the burgundy-red venue, which will accommodate 70, plus a further 30 on the rooftop deck set up with a grill.

Bottles and taps will dispatch batched Paloma cocktails, negronis and more mixed by The Everleigh, while Italian sparkling wines and other varieties are in the hands of Bar Margaux's sommelier, Tom Smith.

Connie's range of square pizzas launched during lockdown are making the move to the new venue.
Connie's range of square pizzas launched during lockdown are making the move to the new venue. Photo: Supplied

Named after Michael's grandmother, Connie, who taught him how to make pizza, the venue will be almost like a time machine, he says. 

The pair will bring it to life with fluted red leather booths, a four-metre fish tank and projections on the walls inside, while outside is all about bench seating around the deck to make the most of Lonsdale Street's canopy of plane trees. The plan is to serve grilled peppers and sausages on crusty rolls at weekends in summer.

He's even sourcing from Sydney the Mr Pisa handmade gelato treats that his grandparents served at their Newcastle restaurant, appearing here in flavours such as passionfruit, Baci and lemon gelato, served in a lemon, and parquet wooden bowls that will trigger memories for anyone who was alive in the '80s. 

New York-style pizza and baked clams are fused with dishes from the Italian-Australian restaurants Michael Madrusan's ...
New York-style pizza and baked clams are fused with dishes from the Italian-Australian restaurants Michael Madrusan's family owned when he was a child. Photo: Tash Sorensen

He and Zara are excited to give Connie's its own space, particularly in this site, which they tried to buy many years ago. After previous tenant Seoul House closed earlier this year, the stars aligned.

"It's got really great bones; it's always had potential."

Level 1, 234B Russell Street, Melbourne, conniespizza.com.au