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A classy touch of tradition to create Italian delight

Lygon Street is alive with the delights of Italy. With Ewert Leaf in the lead, the carefully designed interior at Figlia was in good hands as the stellar practice presents dining on a design plate.

A classy touch of tradition to create Italian delight

Traditionally, Lygon Street in Melbourne has been the place for the best Italian food in town and, with the arrival of Figlia, this reputation has indeed been enhanced. Figlia (Italian for daughter) is the youngest member of the Tipo 00 and Osteria Illaria family from fêted restaurateurs, Andreas Papadakis and Luke Skidmore, and it does not disappoint. Understanding that the atmosphere and aesthetic of the restaurant was to be a reflection of the neighbourhood, Figlia is casual and relaxed. It glows both figuratively and, at night, literally, to become the new beating heart of the dining destination street.

Ewert Leaf was commissioned to interpret this new venue as raw, authentic and accessible and it has created a simple yet sensational pizzeria-restaurant. Ana Calic, associate director, and Michelle Soufya, senior interior designer, have peeled away the usual layers of hospitality decoration and bring to Figlia a sophisticated yet warm design that is fully realised through texture and detail. There is a restrained rawness and curated simplicity to the interior that offers a place of comfort alongside great design and excellent food.

“Despite the large trends we are seeing in the Melbourne hospitality scene in which the brief is often about creating an ‘Instagrammable’ social viral space, Figlia is quite the opposite. It leans back into the traditional basics and doing them exceptionally well. It’s about comfort food, great company and friends, wine and the memories made at your local Italian pizza restaurant. The space isn’t trying to be the next best thing, but rather the goal is to have a timeless impression on Brunswick and the wider community,” explains Calic.

The property, on the corner of two streets, was just a shell when the designers commenced and the raked roof. Two original walls were retained and subsequently helped inform the design. The spatial plan includes an open kitchen and central U-shaped bar, banquette seating and the usual tables and chairs. At 288 square metres, there is room to move but excellent flow makes the space feel larger and, with 80 seats, both a single diner at the bar and a crowd at the communal table are more than comfortable inside.

The materiality informs a colour palette that was chosen with great care. Steel, timber, concrete and leather complement each other perfectly and the nuances of the colourings overlap and effect continuity. A slim black, mild steel bulkhead has been placed as a rim around the periphery of the internal walls and this creates definition. Above this, the walls to the ceiling are painted a natural tone and this creates a certain intimacy, especially at the entrance where the height is greatest. On the dark painted ceiling and, in between the olive-green purlins, acoustic panels have been installed to absorb any noise from the hard-edged materials.

The bar features a mild steel-cladded plinth that is topped with a composite concrete benchtop. Both will wear and patina over time for a timeless aesthetic. Timber veneer adorns cabinetry in just the right shade of chestnut, while the olive-green hued leather on the banquette seating is beautiful in its subtlety. The original brick walls have been washed and the texture is an aged visage with hints of remnant colour, while other walls have been covered with textured plaster and present as if they have always been there.

Related: Italian dining design in Brisbane

“The rawness of the burnished steel and concrete finishes are offset with warm timber veneers and earthy green tones in the joinery, providing a palette that is both humble and robust,” says Soufya.

The kitchen is bespoke, of course — designed by Ewert Leaf in collaboration with experts. Open to view, there is a wood-fired pizza oven and more ovens and benches where chefs cook and plate up. It’s theatrical and brings life to the interior, creating a sense of being in Nonna’s (or, in this case, Nonno’s) kitchen to make Figlia a warm and friendly environment.

To the left of the entrance door, with its large artisanal steel pipe handle, is a communal table and a wall of misty glazing. Behind this expanse of windows is a large fridge and it is just possible to see the outline of wine bottles, hanging charcuterie and stored cheese rounds from the next-door delicatessen.

Bentwood chairs and tables populate the interior and Bentwood stools surround the bar where seven pendant lights hang overhead. There are boxes of wine stacked to the side and the welcome station is perfect insitu, a furniture piece that was re-claimed and repurposed. 

Figlia is just the beginning as a food stop in Brunswick, with Grana, the deli next door, to open to the public very soon. Cheeses made on-site supply the restaurant and customers will have the opportunity to buy this and other antipasti to take home.

In their design, Calic and Soufya present a venue that more than meets the brief and provides an honest, local Italian dining offering. Through thoughtful detail and layered treatment, Figlia shines as a place that is inviting and welcoming, a destination that will transport customers to far away Italia. Through refinement and finesse, Ewert Leaf has once again conceived the perfect haven for a drink and a meal.

Ewert Leaf


Jack Lovel

We think you might also like this article on Rodd & Gunn’s Brisbane dining.

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