November 16, 2016
Our Cheap Eats project has mostly been about revisiting places we blogged way back in the day, but we're also using it to visit some long-overlooked Melbourne stalwarts. When we needed a quick dinner up at the Parliament end of the city, it seemed like the perfect excuse to finally visit one of Melbourne's institutions: Pellegrini's. It's been trading on Bourke Street since 1954 and by all reports very little has changed in 62 years - there's a wooden board listing different pasta dishes, scrappily decorated walls and staff chatting away in Italian.
It's charming enough, but the bar seating is a little awkward in a group of four. The staff were reasonably helpful taking, us through the vego dishes - the choices are pretty simple: pick from one of a handful of pasta options and then choose either pesto or napoli. I ordered the ricotta ravioli with the napoli sauce (~$18). It was fine - very basic and quite old-fashioned food, served without much care for its presentation - but satisfyingly huge and tasty for all of that.
Cindy went for fettucine with a pesto sauce (~$18). As with the ravioli, this was nothing fancy, but the pasta was fresh, which is the key for such a simple dish. The servings were huge, and the half a white roll we were each served on the side seemed like an unnecessary carb boost.
I'm not sure how I feel about our Pellegrini's visit. It's obviously a hugely nostalgic experience for many Melbournites, with an unpretentious vibe that seems almost entirely unchanged since Italian food was impossibly exotic. Without that connection though, I'm not sure it really measures up - the food is a little uninspiring and when you're paying nearly $20 for fettucine with some pesto stirred through it, it really needs to be amazing. On the plus side, everything happens super fast - our food turned up almost immediately after we ordered it - so it's good if you want something hearty but you're in a bit of a hurry. The watermelon granitas we all ordered to drink (~$3 each) were tops too.
Looking over the brief review in our 2006 Cheap Eats Guide it's clear that Pellegrini's have just kept doing their thing over the past decade, right down to the old dude flirting with the women customers. Prices have gone up a bit - from $12-$14 in 2006 to roughly $18 these days, but otherwise they're just doing what they do. It's not somewhere we'll visit often, but I'm still glad it exists.
The rest of our night was spent at the quite wonderful Hush event at Melbourne Music Week - a series of wonderful bands playing short sets around Parliament House. It was pretty special.
There are lots of positive reviews of Pellegrini's - see Espresso and Matcha, Linnie Eats all the Food, Melbourne Food Baby, It's an Expensive but Delicious Habit, Tempting Palates, The Melbourne Local, Meetoo, Let's Get Fat Together, The Epicurean of Southbank, The Juliet Report, Gastronomical Ramblings, Sweet and Sour Fork, Mochii Eats, Kran and Nina, Gastronomy Gal, Simon Food Favourites, What's for Tea?, Spatula, Spoon and Saturday, The Melbourne Local, Jack Ate the Beanstalk, Melbourne Coffee Review, The City Gourmand, Craig on Toast and Spaghetti Blogenese.
A few people have been much less impressed - there are pretty negative reviews on Adventures with That Fooodie, The Escort and the Thief, Storytelling, First, Melbourne Patron, Suntown Sunbird, New International Students, Let Me Feed You Melbourne, Melbourne Culinary Journal and Tomato.
66 Bourke St, Melbourne
Accessibility: There's a small step up on entry and a pretty crowded interior. You order and pay at the bar. We didn't visit the toilets.