It’s been a carby year, Melbourne. Great Italian joints like DOC Deli, Kaprica and Ombra have come along to light up our lives with pizze, prosciutto and sexual innuendo. Not to mention Bar Di Stasio, Rosetta and Rosa’s Kitchen. But we're still ready to hoist the excitement flag for Bar Paradiso.
This is a true back-streets-of-Sicily espresso bar from Bar Idda founders Alfredo and Lisa La Spina, replete with an ashtray-dotted ledge out the front for midday smokes and espresso.
Inside, the room is all Laminex tables and Martini-branded dishes of Serra mints. The walls are festooned with football pennants (soccer, friends, not the footy), Garibaldi cartoon strips and brass wall-mounted menus offering Chinotto (that’s a bitter Italian soft drink), Moretti beers and Amaro Montenegro liqueur.
People are doing daytime drinking, too. Pop in around midday, and you’ll find a posse of old men sipping digestivi and taking up table space with packets of smokes and cards. Retirement, you’re looking dandy.
The food’s as legit as the layout. Fresh ciabatta is lined with layer upon layer of mortadella and stretchy, aged mozzarella. Take it to flavourtown with some of their caponata – a sharp-sweet-sour eggplant relish with vinegar, celery, olives and in this case a little bitter chocolate.
Desserts are equally ace. The counter is stacked with fat little whipped-and-sweetened ricotta-filled cannoli tubes capped with thick green pistachio dust, or there are sticky honey-soaked doughnuts which you can knock back with a thick cup of near-black Italian hot chocolate. They pull a good coffee too, whether you want it black, white or stuck in your breakfast. Yep, your muesli comes with a wobbly island of just-set coffee panna cotta and plenty of the good stuff like quinoa flakes, roasted pecans and dehydrated mulberries. It's breakfast dessert for the super-grain conscious and time poor.
A bitter-sweet blood orange granita comes with buttery brioche for dipping, but take yours with Campari if you’ve got nowhere to be (or have a laissez faire attitude to workplace alcoholism).
Accordion-backed ballads and hip hop pours out of the speakers, but the pace here is less frenetic than at Bar Idda. In fact, we reckon it would be OK to carb out and take a snooze in one of the banquettes. Which is reason enough to love this place all on its own.