Lucio Galletto grew up in a family of restaurateurs, his parents opening a small beachside kiosk in the ‘40s which evolved into a 200-seat restaurant (which is still run by his cousin today), and Lucio earning his after school pocket money first chopping parsley in the kitchen and later waiting tables; something he claims was excruciatingly painful for the then very shy teenager. It’s hard to believe that today, as a mature Lucio glides from table to table, the consummate host, greeting locals, making new-comers feel like part of the family, reciting daily specials with a flourish and enthusiasm that makes diners want to order every one of them.
Lucio followed his heart to Australia in 1977 when he met and married the vivacious Sally. They opened their first restaurant in Balmain in 1981, moving it to its current site, in the then still bohemian suburb of Paddington, a couple of years later. Neighbouring artists soon cottoned on to Lucio’s seriously good northern Italian cuisine and hospitality and made it their local. When Lucio framed a scribble Sidney Nolan left behind on one of his menus, Nolan was so flattered that he presented Lucio with a painting, and so Lucio’s fabulous art collection began. Today the walls of this sunny corner terrace are covered with canvases large and small by some of Australia’s best-known artists, Tim Storrier, Michael Johnson, John Beard, and Martin Sharp among them. And artworks by John Olsen grace the menu covers.
Lucio says of his restaurant: ‘We follow the season, not the fashion’, and it’s evident in his ever-changing bruschetta toppings, perhaps an orb of creamy buffalo mozzarella with a sliver of ripe fig in autumn, or the ripest, reddest tomatoes with shreds of basil in high summer. Liguria, Lucio’s home region on Italy’s north-western coast, is famed for the most delicate olive oils in all of Italy as well as the most silken pasta. Lucio’s pasta is made in-house daily, passed through the pasta machine so many times it ends up super fine with a wonderfully firm bite rarely seen in fresh pasta. Whether it’s jet black handkerchief pasta tossed with olive oil, prawns, mussels, cuttlefish and a touch of chilli, or the signature dish of fine tagliolini with blue swimmer crabmeat, Lucio’s pasta is always served simply. Mains also err on the simple side, such as a large snapper baked in salt crust skilfully lifted from the bone tableside by Lucio himself. And Liguria’s famous olive oil even gets a look in at dessert time with a superb hazelnut & chocolate pudding with olive oil ice cream and candied orange.
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