It has been a forever question battling it out between Sydney and Melbourne who owns the title as the foodie capital of Australia. I’d say it’s Sydney because I live in Sydney but if you ask a Melbournian, definitely the answer would be Melbourne. Fair dinkum!
During our last visit to Melbourne, aside from the usual touristy itinerary, we included a side of food tripping checking out places where locals eat. It was also an opportunity to showcase the food scene to our friend who was visiting Melbourne from the UK for the first time.
Although you can easily hop on and hop off the Free Tram Zone in Melbourne, we just loved walking and admiring the extensive juxtaposition of architecture this city has to offer, and we ended up in Lygon St in the inner Northern suburb of Carlton, an avenue of restaurants, bars and shops. We wondered off and I was extremely intrigued by the queue at Universal Italian Restaurant and Function Venue. Tummy was rumbling a bit so I thought I should wait for a table while my friends window shopped. Well, luck seemed to be on our side, we got a table outside which is a popular seating area. The selections were priced well and judging by the size of the food next to our table, the Shnizt’ was enormous!
When we all sat down it was 3:pm, so we ordered 2 coffees (long black and latte), affogato, large pizza Margaretha $19 and Fried chicken meatballs $12 to share for the three of us.
While waiting for our order to be served, I had a quick look around the restaurant. It has two spacious dining areas, balcony and the outdoor setting where we were seated. Casual ambience with friendly and warm feel but I can imagine it can also turn into a romantic dining experience at night. Universal Restaurant is an institution, it has been serving Italian comfort food since 1969 in Melbourne, they also do functions and catering.
What a service to start with, food came out quicker than expected, as I settled back on my seat, the coffees arrived with a small side of light and fluffy mousse. At the end of his coffee, Steve said, ‘it was the best long black that he ever had’ and Graham agreed too that his latte had a good balance of espresso and milk. Then came the Margaretha pizza, chicken meat ball and my affogato. The pizza was thick, moist, savoury with chewy mozzarella cheese, topped with fresh basil leaves on a crispy crust. Crunchy on the outside, moist and bursting with flavour on the inside and when dipped into the sauce, it’s a knock out dish, I’m referring to the fried chicken meatballs. Not quite your average chicken nuggets, their version will leave your tastebuds singing with chicken joy. My affogato though I wasn’t sure wether to have it together with the dishes, I managed to hold on a bit until my last bite of my pizza so I can perform the ritual of mixing its elements. I poured the strong espresso coffee gently onto the vanilla ice cream with chocolate fudge and when I tasted it, oh my heaven!, it’s creamy, aromatic and caffeine-rich, the combination was just divine. I could easily lick the glass that came with it.
In a nutshell, great and generous food, brilliant coffee that was not over extracted, weak and/or burnt, great service and pricing, yet retaining its old country origins and vision, superb!
So when in Melbourne, check this iconic restaurant for a taste of Italy in Australia.
We all left the place with happy tummy.
139-141 Lygon St Varlton VIC 3053
Tel 03 9347 4393
E_deliciou_S independently paid for this meal.