As Lennon and McCartney wrote: ‘there are places I’ll remember all my life’ – and Lucio’s Italian Restaurant is certainly that for generations of Sydneysiders. While Sydney is blessed with much good food, wine and service, much rarer is the authentic hospitality in rooms full of colour, laughter and creative energy that transform a good meal into a memorable experience. Perhaps that’s why, of the many restaurants I’ve loved, I recall more specific occasions at Lucio’s than anywhere else … special birthdays; celebrating my first cookbook, the beginning of a journey, and the end of another; toying with a glass of wine and bowl of pasta while awaiting bad news. Lucio’s has been my go-to place for celebrations, commiserations, confessions and comfort, and especially for long Friday lunches when I just wanted to feel great! At the end of January 2021, after 38 years in that distinctive Paddington terrace on the corner of Elizabeth and Windsor Streets, Lucio and Sally Galletto served their final guests. Here are five of the things I’ll remember all my life about one of Sydney’s greatest restaurants.
Hospitality – Seasonal Bruschetta & Sbagliato
Every Lucio’s meal started with complimentary bruschetta, crisp bread rolls and olives. In season there was blood orange or pink grapefruit for your negroni or sbagliato, and when truffles appeared they were always generously grated. Every request was met with grace and everyone left feeling like family.
Gueridon – Salt-baked Whole Fish & Pesto Tableside
Lucio’s staff were skilled in the rare art of tableside service. Whether it’s Lucio himself deftly filleting a whole salt-baked fish, or a waiter skilfully pounding fresh basil and pine nuts in the traditional marble mortar to make pesto, the theatre of gueridon created a sense of occasion.
Private Dining Room – Best Birthday Party Ever!
My favourite birthday party ever was in Lucio’s gorgeous front room, with dramatic works of art lining the walls and dotting the beautifully-set candlelit table. A space that felt both refined and relaxed … where food and wine flowed without fanfare and the company and occasion are what’s remembered.
Art – Tim Storrier’s Burning Rope & Garry Shead’s Mosaic
It started when Lucio framed a doodle by Sidney Nolan on the back of a docket and grew into an extraordinary collection of Australian art covering every wall and surface. I especially love Tim Storrier’s burning rope, Garry Shead’s portrait of Lucio and his beautiful mosaic gracing the entrance.
Innovation – Vespa-delivered Fine Dining & Thirsty Horse Wine Bar
Lucio says: ‘We follow the season not the fashion’. Perhaps it’s that clear mission, that enabled them to pivot so quickly and elegantly when Covid hit. Suit-clad waiters started delivering iconic dishes by Vespa and their beautiful front room became The Thirsty Horse wine bar and deli.