Stellini Bar is small, buzzy and crowded eatery dropped in straight from Milano and filled with office workers and uni students alike.

As you’d expect from the owners of The Mess Hall, it serves ready-made sandwiches, piadinas, calzone and easy Italian favourites, 7 days a week from breakfast till late. There is also an unexpectedly broad selection of dainty homemade sweet treats in the glass cabinet, ranging from biscotti to berry cheesecake to chocolate and walnut brownies.

I headed there at lunch time with the sole purpose of trying out their pork and fennel lasagna (with insalata mixta, $15.50). I manage to squeeze myself onto the marble-topped bar as the small tables and the central communal table were all full to the brim. Waiters rushed around, the tiny kitchen was frantic and conversation volumes were high. All in all, a comfortable place for a solo lunch.

My lasagna came out quickly accompanied with a large handful of super-fresh salad and a huge bread roll. It was a perfect for a wintery lunch – soft melting bechamel squeezed between pasta sheets, fresh tomato sugo and just enough meat for depth of flavour. I normally eat side salads out of duty, but the super-fresh collection of rocket, fennel, cherry tomatoes and carrot was crunchy, crispy and cleansing.

The large plate left me no room for dessert. As the waitress took away my plate she said ‘you didn’t have the bread?’. I blinked. ‘Um…I’m quite full actually.’ She replied ‘Oh, it’s really good bread….but I’m not going to make you eat it’ – by which point I was gesturing for her to return the bread plate to me.

So the meal ended with my pulling apart a lovely chewy bread roll. Talk about carb-loading.

I liked the atmosphere and the food at Stellini Bar so much I’ve already earmarked what I’m having on my next visit. Warm pearl cous cous salad with poached chicken…or maybe the aracini…hmmm polenta chips…and definitely tiramisu.

  • Stellini Bar, 198 Little Collins St, Melbourne +61 3 9654 5074

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