There is a light-filled eatery retelling the story of a powerful showcase of Italian neorealism based on the thematic masterpiece of the 1948 movie Bicycle Thieves. Situated in the inner suburb of Northcote in Melbourne’s east, the café pays homage to the Italian treasure through a modern interpretation of tonality, textures and a revitalised narrative.
Pierce Widera, an emerging Melbourne-based design practice established in 2017, designed the eponymous eatery. Founding partners and directors, Amy Pierce and Nat Widera, are committed to delivering projects across the hospitality, commercial and residential sectors that engage the community and enhance the way we experience our spaces.
The neighbourhood of Northcote puts Bicycle Thieves on centre stage as a celebration of the historic Italian heritage embedded within the suburb’s streets, adding a 21st-century contemporary twist. And the expansive glass windows of the café façade leave nothing to the imagination. From the bustling streets outside, step through the threshold and you’re immediately transcended into an industrial sanctuary.
The café boasts a sleek and sophisticated concrete floor, providing a platform for a myriad of seating hubs throughout the café. To emphasise this, meticulously placed lighting features are used to create zones within the open layout. Long, sculptural communal tables take pride of place at the centre of the space, embodying the true meaning of Italian hospitality. Glowing spherical pendants hang from the ceiling to illuminate the artful food creations underneath.
Traditional banquette seating frame the outskirts of the café, adorned with luxurious, yet humble, leather upholstery in soft raspberry and olive tones against rich timber structures and tables. The polished curved chrome banquette frames are a nod to traditional bicycle frames, and form part of the inspiration for the café. Following the rectilinear edges of the perimeter is white track lighting, which blends seamlessly into the ceiling and defines the seating area without overwhelming the customers below. The result is the creation of an intimate dining setting.
Intricate details adorn the space, with every element of the joinery carefully considered and refined to fit in proportion to each zone. The various seating options are embellished with warm, raw timber features to enhance the nostalgia throughout the Italian-inspired space. Married with tones of minimalistic hues such as whites, greys and blues enhancing the industrial base build. Pierce Widera celebrates the space within the contemporary context and adds a layer of comfort and sophistication. The bespoke concave tiles are composed in a grid of polished metal and textured glass while accents of brass speak to a sense of pared-back opulence, enhancing the thoughtful additions to the interior.
Synonymous to the customs of Italian tradition and heritage, the kitchen is part of the space – ensuring an open, inclusive and welcoming atmosphere flows through the fabric of Bicycle Thieves. The cooking experience invites the customers to immerse themselves in the food: a celebration that is at the core of Italian culture. The vibrant and electric atmosphere hits every corner of the restaurant, with the infectious hum of the kitchen sounds, conversations and festivities transporting you to a food experience that is unique to Bicycle Thieves.
Throughout every element and detail of the space, the modern space pays homage to the 1948 Bicycle Thieves film. The backlit bespoke logo of the café name that is embedded within the timber panelling adds a sense of playfulness to the interior, bringing a sense of softness to the polished elegance of the neighbouring walls.
A well-loved neighbourhood favourite, Bicycle Thieves celebrates contemporary architecture, delicious food and community in a narrative that speaks to honest Italian traditions and character. The hospitality experience at this beautifully humble café invites you to sit down and immerse yourself in the charm and narrative of Melbourne’s film-inspired eatery.
Photography by Derek Swalwell
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