For almost 40 years, Sydneysiders and visitors (including a bunch of famous artists who’ve gifted their works to add to the lemon-hued walls) have flocked to Paddington institution Lucio’s to feast on silky fazzoletti neri ai frutti di mare (buttery ribbons of squid-ink pasta topped with cuttlefish, mussels, prawns and chilli) and tagliolini alla granseola (fine noodles stained green with spinach and sweetened with blue swimmer crab), paired with plonk from the restaurant’s stellar wine list.

The respected family-run Italian restaurant had never done takeaway. It hadn’t had to. That was until Covid-19 hit and takeaway was introduced for the first time in the diner’s history, “To keep all our staff employed and the team together,” Lucio Galletto’s daughter Michela Galletto, who manages the restaurant floor, tells Broadsheet. Now, the Galletto family has taken the takeaway side of things one step further and opened The Thirsty Horse, a pop-up boutique wine store and gourmet deli in the restaurant’s front room. It’s slated to be open until the restaurant closes at the end of January next year. And with the diner now fully booked until it closes, it might be your last chance to eat and drink from its menu.

“When we reopened after lockdown we were restricted to eight tables, which was a little bit difficult,” Michela says. “The front room used to be for dining, then we used it for takeaway, and slowly we’ve turned it into a deli.”

There’s a selection of frozen chef-made meals, including a family-sized eggplant parmigiana; triple-cheese pasta bakes; and cannelloni stuffed with beef cheek, ricotta and spinach. You can also pick up Lucio’s hand-pounded pesto; charcuterie (including bresaola and mortadella); fresh house-made tomato passata; pasta (gluten-free included); Lucio’s house-blend extra-virgin olive oil; and one-litre serves of tiramisu.

But it’s not just a deli – it’s also a place to buy (and taste test) hard-to-find Italian wines, while snacking on bar food such as oysters; house-made pate; ham and cheese-stuffed zucchini flowers; and bruschettone with burrata cream and a dollop of caviar.

You can purchase vino by the glass to enjoy in-house, or a bottle (or more) to take home. The takeaway bottles are “mostly boutique Italian wines you won’t find at your local BWS,” Michela says. There are more than 100 varietals, including premium, rare and vintage bottles.

“A lot of these bottles are usually only available to restaurants,” Michela says. There’s also a cellar list of vintage Australian icons, including Penfolds and Wolf Blass from the ’80s through to the early 2000s, and an impressive range of minimum-intervention drops. Plus, there’s a selection of artisanal Italian beers and bottled Bloody Negronis – Lucio’s signature cocktail – made with freshly squeezed blood-orange juice.

You can also head in on Saturday afternoons from 2pm to 5pm for free wine tastings, and to learn more about pairing wines with Italian food (walk-ins only).

The name, The Thirsty Horse, is a play on the name of the restaurant and art gallery that resided in the site in the 1960s. The Hungry Horse Restaurant & Art Gallery exhibited the works of many up-and-coming artists of the time, many whom went on to become household names, and Lucio’s friends.

The Thirsty Horse Boutique Wine Store and Gourmet Deli
47 Windsor Street, Paddington
(02) 9380 5996

Tue to Sat 3pm–9pm

A recipe from Lucio's is featured in The Broadsheet Italian Cookbook. Buy your copy here.