Carlton will forever be associated with Italy. Italians made the suburb their own in the wake of World War II, bringing pizza, pasta, prosciutto and any number of other then-exotic foodstuffs with them. Melbourne would be a much more boring place today, had they stayed put.

Until the late ’90s, quaint, veranda-lined Lygon Street was undeniably the best place in town to experience these cultural riches, much as Victoria Street is for Vietnamese food today. There are still excellent spots such as D.O.C., Tiamo, Scopri and Kaprica, but if you're not careful, you might end up at a restaurant with a picture menu.

The cafe scene – again, kickstarted by Italian immigrants – is in better shape, partly thanks to the huge student population from nearby RMIT and University of Melbourne. Their presence gives Carlton a relaxed yet busy feel, with plenty of apartment buildings among the well-maintained terrace houses. It’s a great suburb to fritter away an afternoon, catching a movie at Cinema Nova; browsing the shelves at Readings; taking a walk through Carlton Gardens; or seeing what’s on at Melbourne Museum.

Restaurants

The Moor's Head Carlton

Restaurant

Middle Eastern-inspired pizzas, this time in Melbourne’s Italian heartland.

Capitano

Restaurant

Approachable, unfussy American-Italian food with fine-dining pedigree.

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Alfie’s Wine and Grill

Restaurant

A petite restaurant showing off grilled meats and vegetables, with an Australian and European wine list to match.

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Super Ling

Restaurant

Sichuan tofu jaffles, elegant steak tartare and wonton-skin mille-feuille.

Mr Pietro

Restaurant

A warm space filled with southern-Italian hospitality.

Abla's

Restaurant

Authentic Lebanese, with recipes passed down for generations.

Cafes

Ima Project Cafe

Cafe

This Japanese-Australian eatery embraces “ugly vegetables” and local art and design.

Parco

Cafe

Dench pastries, Coffee Supreme lattes and al fresco dining, all in a former power substation.

Vertue Coffee Roasters

Cafe

Carlton's shyest roastery and cafe is hidden down a laneway.

St Charly

Cafe

A lively brunch spot that takes inspiration from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Le Miel et la lune

Cafe

A honeymoon-worthy cafe.

D.O.C. Espresso

Cafe

A pasta and focaccia bar of venerable mention on Lygon Street in Carlton.

Bars

Leonardo’s Pizza Palace

Bar

A rollicking good-times pizzeria from the Leonard's House of Love crew.

Carlton Wine Room

Bar

The pretty Victorian building in the heart of Carlton is a modern eatery with a European-influenced menu and wine list.

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Prince Alfred Hotel

Bar

This is a student watering hole welcoming to all because its pleasures are pub classics: Toss the Boss, parmas and bottomless pancakes.

The Green Man’s Arms

Bar

Meat-free Israeli fare and retro decor – this isn’t your usual Melbourne pub.

Jimmy Watson’s

Bar

One of the oldest wine bars in Melbourne.

Hotel Lincoln

Bar

Pub fare that's a cut above the usual.

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Shops

Pidapipo

Shop

A gelataria that serves sweet brioche, has a chocolate tap and does affogato Italian style.

La Parisienne Pâtés

Shop

Authentic French food purveyors for gourmands and gourmets alike.

The French Lettuce

Shop

Find an enchanting display of cakes at this Carlton patisserie.

D.O.C. Delicatessen

Shop

Authentic Italian deli by D.O.C.'s Tony Nicolini.

Found Sound

Shop

A music-gear nerd’s dream.

Lavezzi

Shop

Four generations of experience gives this traditional gelato, sorbet and granita shop a leg up.