Artists John Olsen and Charles Blackman, and every prime minister since Gough Whitlam, have dined at this Italian institution. Artists have given drawings as thank yous for their lunch, including Sidney Nolan, who sketched Ned Kelly’s visage onto his bill.
Lucio’s turns 35 this year, giving owner Lucio Galletto not only the chance to reflect on his time working in Sydney’s culinary scene, but a reason to launch a handful of special dinners and lunches.
When asked what it was like in 1983 when the Windsor Street restaurant opened, Galletto says: “It was a very exciting time; changes started happening across menus everywhere in the ’80s. Quality locally grown produce improved dramatically and was enthusiastically embraced. Australians travelled the world more than ever and their understanding and appreciation of other cultures was reflected in the emergence of seasonality and regional cuisines, particularly from Italy and Asia.”
Seasonality, fresh pasta and classic Northern Italian cuisine with a modern touch is what’s guided the fine diner over the years. And also, Galletto’s love of art.
Take a seat in the pretty dinning room and you’ll be surrounded by paintings, drawings and a collection of ceramic plates. There are now 35 of the latter hung on the front-room wall, each created by a different artist – the latest by Galletto’s good friend and distinguished painter John Olsen (he also designed the food and wine menus). Other commissioned works are by Garry Shead, Reg Mombassa, Tim Storrier, Anne Thompson, Idris Murphy and Michael Johnson.
At Lucio’s there is now a new two-course “lovely little lunch” or an Il Bel Pranzetto available from Tuesday to Saturday for $59 (entree and main). There’s also the Sharing Feast for groups of six or more (for $130 per person). It’s a generous spread of antipasto, two house-made pastas and, for mains, either whole baked snapper, a one-kilogram dry-aged Angus rib eye or slow-roasted porchetta. It’s paired with a couple of bottles of wine and two signature desserts.
The highlight of the new Lucio’s offering is the Your Cellar at Lucio’s experience. Guests select four special wines from their home cellar and the restaurant will design a bespoke four-course menu to match them (from $150 per person). The meal is for six to 10 guests and wines must be of cellaring age, with additional drinks and courses available if you want.
A new phase of Lucio’s history has also begun. His son Matteo and daughter Michela are now restaurant managers, and George Kohler was brought on in May 2017 as head chef (he completed his apprenticeship with the restaurant 10 years ago, has worked at Berowra Waters, Monopole, and was senior sous chef under Logan Campbell at Jonah’s, who was Lucio’s third head chef). Dirk Bromley was also recently appointed head sommelier (Caffe e Cucina, Otto, Felix ).
“We are very proud that our two children bring a youthful dynamic to Lucio’s,” says Galletto. “They understand the essence of hospitality is not only providing great food, but it is that attention to detail – from the first welcoming smile at the door to the final friendly farewell.
“Knowing how to read the customer’s mood and anticipate their every need is not always easy, but when it works, it makes everyone happy and that is what hospitality is all about, and hopefully this is the legacy we leave.”
Lucio’s celebrates 35 years with three special menus, available now.