Restaurant News

After nearly 40 years in Sydney, Lucio’s is closing

From being a reluctant waiter at his family's restaurant to the co-owner of the city's most enduring establishments, Lucio Galletto reflects on four decades at his eponymous restaurant.

By Yvonne C Lam
The dining room at Lucio's, Sydney.
Lucio Galletto was not impressed with his first waiter uniform. Aged 13 years, he was handed a pair of black trousers, a white shirt and a bow tie for his inaugural shift at the family's restaurant in Liguria, Italy.
"I thought I looked ridiculous, so I locked myself in the toilet," he says. When he was eventually coaxed out and onto the floor, he was swept away by the rhythms and choreography of restaurant service. "It took me not even half an hour to understand it was all I wanted to do in my life. I loved it right away."
There was another love too. He met his wife Sally while she was travelling through Italy in a Volkswagen Kombi ("They say if the van's rocking, don't come knocking. Well, I knocked!") and, smitten, followed her to Sydney.
The pair established Lucio's in Balmain in 1981, before moving the restaurant to its current corner location in Paddington two years later.
Lucio Galletto at the opening of Lucio's in Paddington, 1983.
That means by the time Lucio's closes its doors on January 29 next year, the restaurant would have clocked up an impressive 40 years serving diners (and the odd celebrity). Many came for the Ligurian specialties – the testaroli al pesto, prepared table-side in a mortar and pestle, for example. The tagliolini alla granseola, a tangle of green pasta with blue swimmer crab, has been on the menu since 1983.
Others visited on the recommendation of comedian Billy Crystal. George Harrison made a Sydney pit-stop after attending Melbourne's Grand Prix. Artist Sidney Nolan famously sketched a portrait of Ned Kelly on the back of a docket during a meal. The drawing was framed and hung on the walls, thus kickstarting the art collection that festoons the yellow dining room. (Many of the works will be auctioned early next year.)
The tagliolini alla granseola has been on the Lucio's menu since 1983. Photo: William Meppem
There's been change afoot for a while now. The Federation building that houses Lucio's was purchased by Galletto in 2007, and was sold earlier in February for a reported $3.75 million.
Galletto has mixed feelings about the pending closure. "It wasn't an easy decision to make. It was very emotional, but I'm not sad," he says. "I've done so many years and I've enjoyed all of them very much."
High points? A visit from his cousin, who still runs the family's restaurant in Bocca di Magra, a small village on the north-west coast of Italy. He loved the Lucio's version of the tagliolini alla granseola so much, he put it on the menu back home. Low points? "My body has changed a lot. I was very skinny and now I'm not. I'm not very proud of that," Galletto says with a chuckle.
Family ties are what bind the Lucio's legacy. It runs in the bloodlines – Sally is in charge of the phones and emails, daughter Michela works in the restaurant's admin and on the floor, while son Matteo manages the front of house.
But the concept of family extends to staff and diners too. Staff turnover is low. In the restaurant's near 40-year history, it's only gone through five head chefs, while one dishwasher was on the books for 15 years. "When I called my mother to tell her I was opening a restaurant, the first thing she said was: look after your staff."

As is the case with long-running restaurants, Lucio's has its rusted-on supporters across the generations. "Some customers have been here since the first day. They got married, had children, then their children come back with their boyfriends or girlfriends. It's wonderful because you feel like part of their family," says Galletto.
And the feeling is mutual. Many customers have remarked the latest news is like losing a loved one. "That is the ultimate compliment," Galletto says.
But will Lucio's rise again in the near future? Maybe. There are a few ideas swirling around. "I certainly don't want to retire," says Galletto. But whatever project happens, one thing's for sure: it'll be kept within the family.
Lucio's last service is on January 29, 2021.
Lucio's, 47 Windsor St, Paddington, NSW 2021
(02) 9380 5996
lucios.com.au