The quintessential modern Italian neighbourhood cafe North Melbourne never knew it needed.
Laura Notarfrancesco's love of food began in her childhood, when she would spend hours in the kitchen alongside her mother and father, absorbing the smells and flavours of their cooking. A stint spent travelling around Italy was culinary-heavy for Notarfrancesco, and her just-opened cafe, 5 Lire, is the result of wanting to bring the best bits of Italian cuisine home to her beloved Melbourne. Sitting just across the road from established heavyweight Auction Rooms, 5 Lire is poised to make some waves.
There is already a wait for tables on the weekend as punters queue to be seated in the exposed concrete space — perhaps on one of the two communal tables, or at one of the stools and seats lining the wall and window. There are nods to Italy throughout the venue; Panettone line the walls in anticipation of Christmas, and fresh flowers liven up the wooden tables amongst small tins of olive oil (for drizzlin' on your sourdough).
Come for breakfast and you'll be able to choose from sweet or savoury, with sweet breakfast options like the house made coconut granola ($14) or ricotta hotcakes with vanilla mascarpone and poached pear ($14.5) tempting even the most staunch of savoury breakfasters. The coconut bircher with seeds and petals ($13.5) is seriously Instagram-worthy, as well as being seriously delicious. If you do plump for something savoury though, you can choose from dishes like the frittata with mushroom, spinach and goats curd ($14) or smashed broad beans, 'nduja and buffalo mozzarella on sourdough ($16). For the uninitiated, 'nduja is a spicy, spreadable Italian pork sausage, and is just one of the many references to Italian cuisine dotted across the menu.
Lunch is a simple and pared back affair, with salads on rotation ($13), vegetable fritti ($9) and a blackboard announcing daily specials. The window seats would make for a nice lunch spot — you could grab a salad with grissini and a chinotto and watch the street traffic go by.
With a simple but well-executed menu, a great location, fabulous coffee by Locale Espresso and a liquor license coming soon, it would seem that 5 Lire is one to watch for North Melbourne. While they might not knock Auction Rooms off their perch, they'll certainly ruffle a few feathers.