Just before the store was due to open, Peter Picone was admitted to hospital. “I shit myself,” says Matt. “‘Dad, what am I going to do?’ And he said, ‘Matt, you know how to cook.’”

The takeaway pasta bar thrived, but just three years later, at age 54, Peter suddenly passed away. Matt subsequently sold the family business.

Almost 20 years later, he’s giving it another go.

“I probably should have done it a long time ago,” Matt says. “[It was] dad’s dream. And here it is. This is it.”

Melbourne-based studio Biasol (No. 19Lucky Penny) designed Pentolina’s fit-out. Hints of burgundy and brass finishes adorn the space, which features terrazzo floors, a burgundy-grain marble benchtop and “Pellegrini’s-inspired” bar stools.

Chipped and weathered concrete walls revealed during renovations lend a rustic, Roman tavern feel to the inner-city space. Generous warehouse-style windows look out onto a narrow pedestrian walkway.

“We knew we wanted a traditional Italian pasta bar but updated for modern Melburnians. So, classic – but with a contemporary edge,” Julia says.

Food-wise, the essence of the menu is homemade pasta made using just two ingredients – durum-wheat semolina flour and water.

There’s spaghetti vongole (with clams), and conchiglie salsiccia (shell pasta with pork and fennel sausage) with crisp cauliflower and rosemary. Fettuccine Pentolina is a dish Matt invented for Christmas a few years ago. It comes with prawns, scallops and roe in a saffron cream sauce. Gluten-free pasta is available for $2 extra.

Antipasti might include a classic caprese salad, rice and Grana Padano croquettes and prosciutto with rock melon.

Contrabrand CoffeeIl Melograno gelato, Mount Zero Olives and Impasto Forno Antico bread are all key suppliers. Local and Italian wines are delivered by Tap Wines.

On the cocktail list you’ll find more Italian influences. Nonna’s Garden has a limoncello base with raspberries, vodka and mint. The Godfather is a blend of Monkey Shoulder scotch, amaretto, fresh lime and orange.

While menus are always distributed, Matt encourages customers to leave the ordering to him. “When you can go into a place and the waiter says, ‘leave it to me’ – you know you’re going to have something good.”

“That’s what I got used to at Pellegrini’s. I worked at the coffee machine right at the front door – people would come in and say, ‘Matt what’s good tonight? Give me it,’” he says. “I like that.”

2/377 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
03 9606 0642

Mon 11am–3pm
Tue to Sat 11am–10pm