One of Sydney's great restaurant runs is coming to an end, with Lucio's restaurant pulling up stumps in Paddington at the end of January.
Its record-breaking 37-year innings in the affluent suburb is all the more impressive given the Italian restaurant is still at the top of its game, retaining the two chefs hats it has held for most of its run.
It wasn't smooth sailing on opening night in 1983, when Italian Lucio Galletto, and the woman he chased to Australia, his wife Sally, swung open the doors. "We were full. The chef went into a panic, the orders went in but nothing was coming out," Galletto recalls.
Over the years, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Al Pacino dined there, and opera singer Jose Carreras invited Galletto to his concert with the words, "I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed your restaurant."
But it was the regulars, many of them artists, who brought a new layer of soul, and filled its walls with art. It started when Galletto framed a work Sidney Nolan had sketched in a docket book. So big is the Galletto art hoard today that much of it is in storage. Next year they'll sell a large slice of the collection through auction house Deutscher and Hackett.
Galletto says the restaurant's prized location on Windsor Street helped its longevity. And he's keen to continue the story elsewhere. The Gallettos sold the building in February, just before COVID-19 hit. He considered staying on as a tenant for another two years, but with the couple's children, Matteo and Michela, stepping up and pivoting Lucio's into a takeaway, home-delivery and boutique bottle store, the hunt is on for a bigger site to build a family business for the next generation.
"I'd like to go to another old building with charm, somewhere in the east," the veteran restaurateur says.
"I'm really proud of what Sydney has become. When I arrived here, it wasn't always easy to find a great place to eat. Now we have nothing to envy of the rest of the world."
And Galletto has enjoyed the journey, despite trading through the scrapping of tax deductible meals, the introduction of GST and the rocky road of recessions and COVID. "It's a life of sacrifice (in restaurants), but I love it."