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Scorcher reviews: The Hardware Club — ‘join the club!’

The Hardware Club
43 Hardware Lane (upstairs), Melbourne.
Ph: 9670 1110

On a recent Monday in Melbourne, up a small flight of stairs on Hardware Lane, a couple orders the same pasta dish, the day’s special of sand lobster and crab spaghetti, and discusses the Christmas gifts they still need to buy for various family members.

Next to them, two men with hair greying at the temples, dressed in business attire, leave the table at alternating times to take important-sounding phone calls, returning to finish their rigatoni with tomato sugo and buffalo ricotta.

I sit opposite my mother, who’s caught the train down from the country to have lunch with me, and we survey the intimate space, making special note of the massive, domed gas-fired pizza oven which takes up an entire corner.

This is The Hardware Club, it is lunchtime and the place is almost full to bursting point. Housed in a former 1920s social club (and after that Ciao Pizza Napoli), this new, trattoria-style restaurant is the passion product of childhood friends Nicola Dusi and Andrea Ceriani, who moved to Melbourne from Verona, Italy.

The crowd is split between corporate types on their lunch hour and smiley Melburnians enjoying their Christmas holidays. The food offerings are split, too, between night and day, with the menu really hitting its stride after dark.

On the dinner menu you’ll find things like ossobuco ravioli Milanese with saffron and garlic-lemon parsley; octopus “Luciana” with paccheri pasta and smoked mozzarella; Italian fennel and chilli sausage wheel with silverbeet, chilli oil; and roasted marrow bones with salsa verde.

Lunch is more is a more casual affair, with quality pastas and handmade pizzas making up the bulk of the menu. Bigger dishes include a chicken schnitzel cotoletta with Roman potatos and an eye fillet with pepper jus and rocket salad.

Pick of the pizzas is the hot salami with anchovies, capsicums, mushrooms and olive, which was Ciao Pizza Napoli’s house special and has been made at this location since 1988.

I fear I’m sounding like a German techno track that’s stuck on a loop with my constant harping on about good Italian eateries in Melbourne; truth is, it’s hard to avoid them. They’re popping up all over the place.

I guess, if you can’t beat them, join the club. And in this case, make it The Hardware Club.

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