Welcome to Bar Nonno: Northcote’s first biodynamic wine bar with a strong, traditional Italian focus and even stronger traditional Italian charm.
This is a family job, named for the owner’s grandfather, who first introduced the clan to biodynamic wine making. If you’re wondering whether that’s the sort of whack practice that involves filling a bull’s horn with manure, burying it during a winter full moon only to dig it up again to spray it on the vines, you’d be right. And it makes for some really interesting things you want to drink.
The entrance feels like a retail shop until you get past the racks and hit the dining room filled with dark, deep reds and polished floorboards. Beyond lies a sheltered courtyard where they’re blaring Dean Martin at maximum volume. Despite feeling like you’ve just caught your parents dancing drunkenly in their own home, the staff remind you that you’re in a wine bar with quick, professional service, product knowledge and hospitality.
The wine list is lengthy with an equal split of Australian and Italian examples: sparklings, rosés, whites, reds and stickies, all marked with either a biodynamic or sustainable label. It’s not uncommon to acquire a good bottle for under $40, but the list is not limited to those tight in the pocket.
They class their food as snacks – but these are insubstantial eats only by an Italian definition. Pizzas are built on thin, chewy and crisp bases with a light, fresh sugo, mozzarella and minimal additional toppings. The poached veal in the vitello tonnato is sliced too thick, but it’s rare and soft with a smooth, creamy counter punch of mustardy tuna sauce and capers. They also serve their pasta as the Italian gods intended: each day they pair up one shape – bowties, papardelle or elbows – with a sauce it was custom designed for. On our visit it’s spaghetti razzed up with the salt-acid simplicity of a tomato, olive and anchovies.
What we love about Bar Nonno is that the crew has no good how great it is. If you live near here, make it your neighbourhood go-to. If you don’t, we’d even take the thrill-filled ride that is a commute on the 86 tram for a nosy.