Pellegrini's Espresso Bar

Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar @ 66 Bourke Street, Melbourne
15 April 2011

Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar is regarded by many as an iconic Melbourne dining institution. It is known for its retro 1950’s Italian diner charm with its chequered black and white floor tiles and red vinyl bar stools and also, perhaps more importantly, for its cheap and unpretentious Italian fare. At Pellegrini’s, all pastas are priced at $15 with classic options such as spaghetti bolognese, spaghetti carbonara and lasagne being offered to diners.

We began with a sizable serve of spaghetti carbonara which was an unfortunately sorry case of “quantity over quality”. First and foremost, the pasta was overcooked. Poor execution of this sort can at times be rescued by half decent flavours, but such flavours were certainly not on display here. Rather, the pasta was somewhat bland, a characteristic only partially mitigated by the hefty use of packet parmesan cheese.

The quality of Pellegrini’s highly acclaimed lasagne was equally tragic. The ingredients were indiscriminately slopped onto the plate and uncannily resembled the frozen lasagne commonly served at school canteens in both presentation and taste. Sitting between the sheets of sacrilegiously soft pasta was a one dimensional sauce that was predominantly flavoured with insipid tomato. The dish was a disappointing display of what was expected to be “honest Italian food”.

Over the decades, Pellegrini’s has been renowned for serving hearty Italian food for bargain basement prices. While people still continue to flock to Pellegrini’s today, the quality of its food suggests that the beloved Italian diner is riding on the reputation it had built during its early years, a time when dining options in Melbourne were far more limited and when diners were perhaps a little less discerning. When Melbourne is graced with the presence of Italian cheap eats such as Grossi Cellar Bar and Tiamo - establishments which serve superior pastas at comparable prices - Pellegrini’s, as it exists today, simply does not compete in quality or in price. Indeed, Pellegrini’s appears to have long passed its expiry date.

Rating: 1.5/5


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