66 Bourke St
There are two schools of thought concerning change. One group thinks that if a formula works, it should be kept that way, whilst the other believes that there’s always room for improvement. Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar falls strictly into the former category, for better or for worse. Armed with every review under the sun from ‘disgustingly outdated’ to ‘charmingly old-school’, Chris and I set out to see for ourselves just what Pellegrini’s is like.
I’ve been here a couple years back with a friend for coffee (very strong but not fantastic), and the place hasn’t changed since. Heck, most people are convinced that nothing’s changed since the day Pellegrini’s opened. They probably guess rightly too – the long narrow space with chequered floor boards, wooden menu board (no prices), and various memorabilia looks like it’s been here since the 50’s.
|Lasagne (approx. $15)|
There’s no concrete menu here at Pellegrini’s; instead, you can order almost any combination of pasta and sauce, and they’ll probably be able to make it for you. There are also certain things, such as the gnocchi, which are only available on certain days. Hearing rumours about enormous portion sizes, we ordered a Lasagne (approx. $15) to share. Our order was called out from the bar about five minutes later, and we were handed a generous, though not gargantuan serve of pasta along with a slice of buttered bread. As you can see, the presentation is nothing to shout about, and the pasta sheets were soft beyond repair. Yet we were both happy to overlook all of that, simply because the lasagne was rich, meaty, and piping hot. If all the patrons were happy to have a bowl of pasta for lunch on a 32 degree day, then they must be doing something right here.
|Watermelon Granita (approx. $3)|
Walk into Pellegrini’s in summer, and odds are that nine out of ten people will be clutching one of the famous Watermelon Granitas (approx. $3). Refreshing and sour, with a genuine watermelon taste, it was the ideal drink to serve with a steaming bowl of pasta.
I won’t lie; the pasta at Pellegrini’s, as pleasant as it was, did not impress me nearly as much as the loud, raucous and entirely Italian vibe did. Don’t come here with high expectations of the food, it’s the kind of nosh your Italian friend’s mum would make on a weeknight. You can however expect a good hearty (if not a bit slap-dash) feed, and a little slice of 50’s Italy.
Rating: 13/20 – come for the experience