A lifetime ago I worked at Rialto in Collins Street and there were zero good lunch options.
Fortunately things have been moved on in what my former colleague dubbed the ‘Beirut’ end of town. One of the great places located under my former liftwell is Espressino.
Espressino is a pizza and coffee bar brought to you by the folks behind +39 Pizzeria – voted the best pizzeria in Melbourne in 2011 by The Age Epicure. With that pedigree, the thing to order is definitely pizza.
R and I shared two pizzas – baby broccoli with mozzarella, anchovies and pinenuts ($14.50) and ‘Gamberi’ with mozzarella, zucchini, prawns and cherry tomatoes ($16.50). Both pizzas came out promptly, as befitting a place catering for mostly office workers. If you’re in a super hurry then you can buy panini, piadine or pizzette to take away.
The pizza bases were bubbly and nicely charred around the eduges with a very satisfying rip-em-apart chewy consistency to them (though pre-cut into slices for ease – thank you!). I very much enjoyed our topping combinations too, although I thought I detected an unexpected buttery flavour on the surface, which was a little odd as I’d expect olive oil rather than butter to be involved in Italian-style pizzas.
The unseasonally sunny weather beckoned us to linger a little longer at our outdoor table so R ordered an excellent latte for $3 (beautiful crema) and I indulged in a dessert pizza with strawberries, nutella and vanilla ice-cream. This dessert can easily be shared between two people, making it a bargain at $8. The vanilla icecream is particularly noteworthy – not just bog standard commercial stuff but with the speckled evidence of scraped vanilla beans and infused with some sort of liquer.
From what I tried the quality of the pizzas at Espressino is excellent and it is certainly comparable other high-end pizza restaurants like Ladro or Supermaxi while being about $3-5 cheaper per pizza. In fact, the same pizzas are available on the menu of +39 Pizzeria for about $4-6 more than at Espressino.