It began in 1952. A family that loved food, was passionate about service and cared about their product opened up the University Cafe. For 23 years that family built their business right here in Carlton. Right here in Melbourne. In the heart of the community and with the community. With friendships, with love and with the pure joy of good food. In 1979, a second-generation took over and opened one of the very first Italian Bistros, Donnini’s.
Upon the shoulders of their parents and the recipes and the history of their culture and family, they continued the Donnini story. Their Italian Eatery quickly made a name for itself. Awards were won, articles were written, people came from all over. The ‘Ciao Italia Award’ for the best Italian Restaurant in Australasia was presented to them in 1982 by the Italian President.
Soon the Pasta revolution took over Melbourne, and Donnini began distributing its traditional pasta, with friends and family joining the business and expanding the Donnini name. Both in Melbourne and across Australia.
For more than sixty-six years Donnini has called Carlton home. For more than sixty-six years it has built a love and a reputation. For more than sixty-six years, Donnini’s has not only been the staple of the Italian community, the Carlton people, but it has provided a thread in the very fabric of Melbourne culture.
Donnini’s is more than an Italian restaurant. It is a promise. A promise that was made over sixty years ago and that has been engrained and upheld over four generations.
In 2002 Marco and Riccardo Donnini along with Chefs and Partners, Vito De Nino and Mario Messina opened Donnini’s on Lygon Street right across the road from where it all began. A full circle was complete and the Donnini name is now not just Melbourne history, but Australian.
There is much more to the Donnini story. So much in fact that we don’t feel it is appropriate to even begin to tell it. A tapestry speckled with great journeys and checkered memories. What we can tell you is that walking into Donnini’s is like walking into a recipe book that sits neatly on its own on the mantlepiece.
The restaurant is a fine dining experience built upon centuries-old cuisine. Outside bay windows give way to a long dark wooden deck. Simple seating on either end, with a bar lined with beverages and wines. It is, as most fine dining restaurants should be, simple in its decor.
Unrefined, crisp and elegant. It is the food that people have come for, not the setting. And the food at Donnini’s is inspired. Creations of old and new, innovations of taste and smells, of regions and recipes come and gone are Chef Vito’s domain.
He is a character all on his own. A face you have certainly seen, all too often at the back, doing what great Chefs do.
Donnini’s is a place on everyone’s list, and it certainly is on ours.
320 Lygon St Carlton VIC 3053
+61 3 93473128
Mon-Sun 12:00- Onwards