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Probably one of the first pioneers of Melbourne’s café culture, Pellegrini’s is an Italian café located on Bourke St, in Melbourne’s CBD. It began sometime around the 1940s/50s and has now become a Melbourne institution. Walk into Pellegrini's and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time, as little has changed since it opened. It’s nothing like the flashy café’s and modern restaurants these days, that serve tapas, gazpacho or some kind of east-meets-west fusion. No, Pellegrini’s is completely unpretentious, keeping its traditional décor of wooden menu boards and long bars, with gold backed mirrors. This old world charm is part of the attraction of Pellegrini’s along with the exceptional coffee, and reliable, honest food. Their menu never changes, and all the food is cooked by an Italian grandma out the back. Seating is mainly at the bar that stretches the length of the narrow shop, but there is also a big table in the kitchen where you can sit while ‘mama’ cooks up a feast.

Meals are hearty and warming on a winter’s night. Anyone who frequents the place, will have a preferred dish they will always order. The most popular are probably the lasagne and spaghetti bolognese. Most dishes contain lots of meat and cheese, but there is still the spinach and ricotta canneloni, or vegetable risotto, if you’re that way inclined!

The reason I always return to Pellegrinis is the amazing atmosphere of the place. It’s always busy with all kinds of people from high-powered business men to struggling uni students. The ever-friendly waiters never need to write down orders, and are probably on a first name basis with half of Melbourne. Its great to sit there eating up at the bar, listening to the waiters talk to each other in Italian. Pellegrini’s is probably best known for its coffee, (for which it has received various awards), but for me you can’t go past the homemade watermelon granita!

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