Eggplant melanzane? Foil butter sachets? Unapologetically old school with mod-Melbourne lines, Lupino is hammering out pan-Italian classics like they’re going out of style.
Richard Lodge of Becco has set up Lupino (that’s Italian for little wolf - awooo!) with its CBD location firmly in mind. It’s all polished concrete, terracotta tiles and holy hell - is that macramé? Sure is, and whilst the hard lines, echo factor, and city locale mean that by day it's all business, by night its a soft lit haven for casual rendezvous.
Want snacks? No problem. Chef Marco Lori’s menu has as many bites as it does behemoths and the accompanying wine list is easy, listing Italian drops from light and breezy to big and ballsy. Start with a polpette apiece ($3.50). The golf ball-sized pork meatballs, engulfed in biting tomato sugo pack an improbable amount of flavour into their diminutive spheres. The pizza is good. Crisp, pliable, just on the edge of scorched bases, they’re not perfect, but still worth giving a red hot go. Try the anchovy number. It’s almost a flatbread, with the brown bad boys cooked into the base and nothing but a lick of oil and some pickled whities on top. Is it a plate of salt? Yes. Is it good? You bet your sweet potato it is.
The gnocchi – perfect puffs by the way – arrive fighting for their life in a lava pool of cheese sauce, so you might also want to opt in for an acid refresher of caprese salad ($9). A sweet medley of tomatoes, lifted with a garlic spiked dressing and fresh basil, it comes topped with a mozzarella boll as big as your fist, and as soft as John Candy. A tender braised lamb shank covered in rich cooking liquor with fine creamy polenta is a hefty mamma of a dish for $17, and proves that simplicity and restraint are a chef's best friend. If a dough-based grande finale is the last thing you feel like facing, bypass the Nutella slathered bombolini doughnut missile and get the Lupino Scropino ($15). Lemon gelato, a shot of vodka and a glass of prosecco, this boozy spider is the GHB of the dessert world, and if you’re not having fun after drinking it, you’re probably boring.
This is some good Italiano, and we couldn’t care less that there’s nothing on the menu we haven’t seen before. They’re doing it right by nonna, and that’s all that counts.