Leonardo's Pizza Palace
Carlton's palatial home of Italo-American pizza and pasta from the team behind Leonard's House of Love.
UPDATE: AUGUST 28, 2020 — Carlton's pizza palace has been helping Melburnians through lockdown by delivering its tasty, tasty carbs, and now it's taking things up a notch with creative cocktails to-go. On Saturday, August 29 from 3pm until sold out, Leonardo's is selling piña coladas. To order, text a 🍍 to 0475 587 708 or head online to the website. Cocktails must be ordered with food.
Stepping into Leonardo's Pizza Palace, there's a lot going on. Literally. For a Sunday night at eight o'clock, it's packed. A DJ is playing laid-back tracks, and waitstaff carry pizza and pasta to various nooks and crannies, navigating around punters waving glasses of Summer Spritz ($19, Aperol, fermented orange, bubbles) or a Bicycle Thief ($20, gin, Campari, grapefruit, lemon, soda).
Formerly Da Salvatore Pizza By the Metre, the restaurant now has a bit of a Williamsburg vibe, although it isn't entirely necessary given that the building itself has its own personality in spades. The team responsible for southside favourites Leonard's House of Love and the soon-to-close Ramblr, have wisely kept the bones and décor from a pizza institution dating back to 1954.
While they haven't kept the metre-long pizzas, they still have a kitchen dedicated entirely to pizza — which you can see through one of the many 70s-style brick archways dotted throughout the venue. Choose your toppings for these woodfired, charred and blistered, beauties from a red-and-white menu that channels old-school Chinese takeaway brochures as much as retro Italian ones.
The pizza getting a lot of airtime here is topped with Chinese bolognese — taken from Ramblr's menu — piled atop the dough alongside white sauce, fior de latte and chopped scallions ($21). It's full of umami richness. But the pepperoni also has its merits, and the slightly spicy Sicilian further down the menu successfully combines Mediterranean vegetables, a red sauce base and a scattering of bitter rocket leaves. With a side serve of ranch dressing for dipping, there is no excuse not to eat your crusts at Leonardo's.
You can't go past a good spag bol and Leonardo's is rich with a good ratio of meat to red sauce ($19). The broccolini salad ($10) features steamed and cooled broccolini, sweet bursts from sugar snap peas, toasted almonds, macadamia cream and a veritable snow storm of finely grated pecorino cheese. Decadent, but still a salad.
The nostalgic continues into the desserts, with a choice of either tiramisu or gelato (both $10). When asked about the tiramisu, a waitress replied, "it is what it is and it comes out sliced like a pie." And that's pretty much the case. It's a wedge of thick mascarpone mousse on coffee-soaked sponge topped with a dusting of cocoa powder. While it's more texturally satisfying than flavoursome, the creamy smoothness is still a perfectly fine way to finish the meal.
There's a good range of Italian and local wines, both by the glass and the bottle, four beers on tap (choose Leonardo's Bath Tub Brew and say it quickly four times) and a small selection of bottles and cans.
Images: Kate Shanasy.