The first grocer Carlo Valmorbida owned and ran after he migrated from Italy in the 1940s wasn't King & Godfree, the iconic Italian deli on the corner of Carlton's Lygon and Faraday streets, but a humbler operation on Swanston Street called Agostino. The new wine bar, shop and cellar that opens inside the K&G building on May 14 pays tribute to his earliest venture.
Sandwiched between the K&G Deli and Espresso Bar and Pidapipo Gelateria, the long-awaited 50-odd seater references the old eateries of Italy. Four years in the making, the pared-back interior, designed by architect Chris Connell, features a concrete terrazzo floor, natural aniline leather wall panelling, a terracotta-coloured ceiling and grey steel shelving stacked full of wines from the 200+ list.
The menu reflects the Valmorbida family's northern Italian heritage, with dishes such as baccala mantecato, bread pappardelle with rabbit ragu and roasted quail with white polenta and chestnuts alongside snacks such as olives and Moonlight Flat oysters available any time.
It's not boundary-pushing food but it will be delicious, promises general manager Anthony Musarra. "This is a neighbourhood wine bar – we want people to come and hang out three or four times a week, if they want to."
Four wines are on tap, along with two beers – Peroni and a rotating producer. There are also classic Italian cocktails such as negronis and bellinis, and the signature K&G spritz, starring prosecco and Stellacello Pompelmo grapefruit liqueur.
Downstairs, the cellar has been converted into a function space for 50, with another wine room stocked with Italian Barolos, French Chablis, and high-end Australian producers such as Mount Mary and By Farr. All the wines, including those upstairs, are available to take away or drink in for another $20 on retail.
Open daily noon-late (but dinner only in the first week).
297 Lygon Street, Carlton, 03 9347 1619, agostinowine.com.au