12 Lenthall St Kensington, NSW 2033
|Opening hours||Mon to Fri 6.30am-3pm; Sat and Sun 7am-3pm|
|Features||Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9663 0693|
There is no menu at Bar Lucio which means, in owner Lucio De Falco's words, "people just standing, looking and looking for five minutes".
It could be longer, judging by the lingering stares of afternoon customers lost in thought between platters of sweet and savoury specialities before them.
To the right they peruse just-out-of-the-oven eggplant parmigiana, fat stacks of buxom, herb-flecked focaccia and a deep ceramic dish of almost-finished lasagna blushing with layers of red tomato.
To the left are eye-widening hillocks of De Falco's house-made pastries swinging from icing sugar dusted mini chocolates cakes to golden palm-sized ricotta cheesecakes and heady slices of golden-edged, cloud-like angel cake.
Looking down into glass cabinets we consider crunchy bread sandwiches of buffalo mozzarella with tomato and basil and panino with ham, mozzarella and tomato or eggplant and capsicum Sicliana caponanta with fresh and creamy stracciatella.
Nobody moves, their eyes darting on independently until an order for the last lasagna slice, a flat white and a slice of ruby red strawberry tart latticed with pastry breaks the trance-like air. A mood of quiet jealousy breaks out at someone making a decision.
Lucio's Bar is owned by Napoli-born master pizzaiolo Lucio Del Falco, whose two restaurants in Darlinghurst and Zetland consistently pull crowds for beatific wood-fired pizza. For a long time though he dreamt of opening a bar. "A bar as a cafe," he says. "Not as a wine bar. A proper Italian bar."
In that vein, and taking advantage of slower times amid lockdowns, he chose a former antiques shop, high on a corner in the heart of residential Kensington.
Whitewashed with deep azure awnings and front door frame, the blue tones continue across floor tiling, white and blue cross-hatched chairs and rows of bottles of Santa Vittoria sparkling water.
Sun streams in on marbled counters and walls as school students arrive to buy crunchy ricotta and candied orange sfogliatelle and bags of Nutella-filled mini bomboloni.
Outside on the terrace, men with buttoned woollen jackets and leather moccasins sip short blacks with paragina, a Neapolitan-style pizza merging of dough and puff pastry stuffed with cured meats, mozzarella and tomato.
Sitting nearby, it is easy to take in the view between soulful munches of one of De Franco's vegan options, a richly flavoured toasted focaccia with Sicliana caponanta and rocket. A code d'aragosta waits plumply on a plate.
Named because it resembles a lobster's tail, this crunchy, almost chewy pastry is filled with Chantilly cream and cherry is blissful whisked in with a strong and fragrant short black.
A wall-mounted list of drinks, ranging from coffee, including affogato, chai, loose leaf tea, milkshakes, smoothies and fresh juice, also features De Falco's Caffe del Nonno, or grandpa's coffee.
A soft, creamy scoopable treat served in a little cup poked with a chocolate-filled wafer roll it's designed for hot weather, but just as good in cardigan climes.
Made from coffee, cream and sugar, and poured from a dinky, behind the counter machine like a high-end soft serve for coffee lovers, it is a velvety soft a melt-on-the-tongue caffeine delicacy.
Every night after De Falco has finished leading the kitchen at his award-winning Lucio Pizzeria in Zetland, he prepares the pastries, pies, bread, lasagna and pizza for Bar Lucio for wood-fired oven baking in the morning.
He works late, his kids wake him up early and, overseeing two restaurants and cafe, means an always busy life. "But, it's better to be busy than not, yes?" he says. "Particularly after the two and a half years of Covid."
Customers are returning but finding staff is a continuing difficulty. He is proud of Bar Lucio's team, a bustling and efficient group, and of the locals who appear every day on the dot of 6.30am for coffee, pastries and bacon and egg rolls.
One day soon he will open Bar Lucio in the evenings, allowing customers to drink wine on the terrace, watch the sun sink behind surrounding gums and stand "looking, looking" at the rich treasures laid out to be eaten.
Vibe Neighbourhood coffee bar serving luscious Italian pastries, savouries and good coffee.
Go-to dish Just-baked lasagna or paragina stuffed with meat, mozzarella and tomato.
Insta-worthy dish Crunchy ricotta and candied orange sfogliatelle