1. Assorted panini from Piccolo.
    Photograph: Quincy Malesovas
  2. Salami panini.
    Photograph: Quincy Malesovas
  3. Staff member behind the counter at Piccolo Panini Bar.
    Photograph: Quincy Malesovas
  • Restaurants | Cafés
  • Hawthorn
  • Recommended


Piccolo Panini Bar

3 out of 5 stars

Strong coffee and hefty Italian-style panini marked this Hawthorn sandwich bar an instant hit, but does it live up to the hype?


Time Out says

Piccolo Panini Bar is a place whose reputation precedes it, its strong social media presence and blocks-long queues garnering a lot of hype. Despite entering the scene at the later end of the sandwich wave, Piccolo developed a chokehold on loyalists from the inner east and those willing to travel for a good panini.

Needless to say, the bar was set high when we visited on a Friday at 8am. The venue was nearly empty save for a few takeaway coffee customers, allowing us to fully soak up the ambience (custom-branded soccer jerseys on display, cannoli at the counter, music pumping) before the lunch rush.

The board behind the deli case of marinated vegetables, salumi and cheese, listed six filling options, only one of which was vegetarian and most of which fell around $16. Each sandwich could also be customised with additional accoutrements for an extra cost of $1.5 to $6 more. But a shop’s signatures are the best judgment of their quality so we went with the cotoletta and the salami, plus coffee.

The latter came first, milk well-frothed and coffee strong but not bitter. The food was served around ten to fifteen minutes later. We denied the offer of a carry bag and regretted it once realising the sandwiches weighed what felt like a kilo each, but quickly found a sunny nearby park to dine at. There are only a few outdoor tables at Piccolo in clear line of sight of the staff and passersby, which is not ideal for those who prefer to dine with some semblance of privacy.

Both sandwiches were well-wrapped in custom branded paper, which peeled away to reveal monster slabs of house made focaccia. My dining partner's was stuffed with salami, provolone, red pesto, marinated capsicums and eggplant; mine with chicken cotoletta, rocket, pickled onion and salsa verde.

Based on size alone, the price seems well worth it as one sandwich can easily stretch into two meals. But while the portions were generous, the bread-to-filling ratios are skewed too much in the bread direction. It’s a delicate dance trying to find that perfect balance of bread, so we commend Piccolo’s efforts but think that a thinner base would allow the fillings more chance to shine.

As for the fillings themselves, the salami and its accompaniments were perfectly balanced but too cold to reach their full potential. A quick toast would have done wonders but the chilled vegetables fresh from the fridge dulled the flavours of the dish and made it slightly unpleasant to eat. Despite common misconception, paninis are not always toasted – but this one could stand to be.

On that cold winter morning, the warm, crisp cotoletta stepped up where the salami fell short, but the flavour still left us a tad underwhelmed. The meat, while well-cooked, lacked seasoning that even a pinch more salt after frying might have remedied. And the salsa verde was not as robust and punchy as we would have liked. For those interested in trying it anyway, the addition of chilli oil or additional sauce would go a long way. Maybe that's why so many Piccolo fans on social media fork out for the extras.

Strictly based on value for money, Piccolo is worth a try with hefty sizes and high-quality ingredients that rival its competitors. But it seems that to get the most out of your sanga, you've got to cough up a bit more cash than expected. At least Piccolo offers a solid foundation to build upon, and besides, it's a super popular lunch spot right now so they must be doing something right. 

Time Out Melbourne never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique.

Looking for the best sandwiches in town? Eat your way through this list. Craving something sweet instead? Try a sugary treat from one of Melbourne's best doughnut shops.


636 Glenferrie Road
Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 8am-3pm, Sat 9am-2pm
You may also like
You may also like