Melbourne's Own Little Italy

The Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch is a festival favourite. Its been a part of every Festival over our 25 year history, and this year we are so thrilled to have the godfather of Italian cooking, Antonio Carluccio, at the helm.

It will be a true alfresco celebration, as we're brought together in the epicentre of Melbourne's own Little Italy - Lygon Street. It's a street with quite an amazing history and one that Australia's reputation as a global food city, owes alot to. 

The post-war immigration boom of the late 1940s saw an influx of new Australians from all over Europe. One in six came from Italy. They quickly established businesses and a thriving community in and around Carlton (formerly the centre of Melbourne’s Jewish community), with Lygon Street as its epicentre. Melbourne’s tables have never been the same.  

Lygon Street is the birthplace of Australian coffee culture; the first espresso machine was imported in the 1950s and, according to legend, was held by customs officers who had no idea what it was.

It is also the proud home of Australia’s first pizzeria, Toto’s, an institution that is synonymous with Italian food and culture in Melbourne. And the roots run deep. Many of the first families who opened businesses on the bustling strip can still be found there: Tiamo has been open for over thirty years (the dark timber interior has barely changed), Donati’s Fine Meats has been open since the early 1960s, and food store King and Godfree as far back as 1884.

The street is steeped in the history of one of Australia’s most successful and enduring migrant communities. Lygon Street has seen many and has weathered them all.

Now the strip is going through something of a renaissance with new wave of young, entrepreneurial Italians making their mark bringing with them a new take on Italian cuisine that is authentic and innovative.

D.O.C has become a firm favourite with its simple but delicious Italian classics and takes traditional Italian fare to a whole new level with a bespoke, glass room housing an enviable collection of local and imported cured meats. At La Latteria you can buy fresh mozzarella, bocconcini, ricotta, burrata and fior di latte, all made on site. Walk down Lygon Street any night of the week (yes, all through winter) and you’ll witness the odd spectacle of locals lining up for gelato at Pidapipo Test Lab, owned by Lisa Valmorbida of the King and Godfree dynasty.

With the joint appeal of nostalgia and modernity, it’s little wonder Melbournians are still in love with Lygon Street.

This lunch is going to be something special, and we can’t wait to kick off our 25th Festival with 1600 revellers and Antonio Carluccio at the helm. Bellissimo!

If you missed out on tickets, there are still 24 stunning Regional World's Longes Lunches taking place throughout the state.