Locals had a soft spot for Hardware Lane's Ciao Pizza Napoli. So when +39 Pizzeria co-owner Andrea Ceriani and his childhood friend Nicola Dusi (ex. D.O.C. Pizzeria, Baby Pizza, Chin Chin) took it over, it was business as usual for 12 months while they figured out how they could preserve the essence of one of Melbourne's oldest pizzerias and keep its regulars coming back, while still doing something different.
On October 30, they officially reopen as The Hardware Club after an eight-week renovation.
The new name pays homage to the site's original purpose as a social club for members of the hardware industry in the 1920s. Giving it an English name, rather than an Italian name, is also Ceriani and Dusi's way of saying "this is a Melbourne restaurant that serves Italian food", says Dusi.
The 65-seat restaurant, which overlooks Kirk's Wine Bar and the rest of bustling Hardware Lane in Melbourne's CBD, is now unrecognisable from its former life as Ciao Pizza Napoli. Inspired by the trattorias of Verona, it features ash timber, grey-green banquettes, a marble bar, white tiling and exposed red beams.
Ceriani and Dusi grew up together in Verona, Italy, and chef Dusi's seasonal menu reflects that.
Asparagus was something they both remember eating a lot of – here, it's served with hard-boiled egg, burnt butter and salted ricotta.
There's also roasted brussels sprouts with a "tonnato" dressing, paccheri pasta with octopus, smoked mozzarella and "salty bits", and roasted marrow bones with salsa verde.
There's one pizza on the menu for fans of Ciao Pizza Napoli. Right now it's a classic margherita, but its toppings, shape and even style will change regularly.
If you're just popping by to sit at the front bar for a snack and a glass of wine from the Italian-heavy list, options include a tin of anchovies (your choice of either Yurrita or Don Bocarte) with roasted bread and butter, whipped cod mantecato or maybe a plate of prosciutto with stracchino cheese.
The Hardware Club is open daily from noon-3pm and 5.30pm-late at 43 Hardware Lane, Melbourne, 03 9670 1110, thehardwareclub.com