Walking into Lucio's in Paddington is like visiting your most arty friend, who has a collection you can only dream of, along with a warm welcoming embrace. Every available wall space is adorned by Australia's finest artists work. We were seated beneath Lucio’s latest addition, 'Sacred Fish' by Imants Tillers, hung only that morning.
Lucio's offers old school Italian charm with genuine Italian waiters welcoming you inside. And Lucio Galetto himself is the host of all hosts. The restaurant has the warmth that only a family run restaurant can create. Lucio and his wife Sally and their two children Matteo and Michela, have all worked or work in the restaurant. Matteo has now opened his own successful restaurant, Capriccio, in Leichhardt where we love to eat every week.
Lucio is from Liguria in the north of Italy. Like many Italians Lucio flies the Italian flag proudly and his menu is influenced by Liguria accordingly. Liguria's most celebrated dish is pesto which you can get at Lucio's occasionally as a special, handmade at the table, and tossed through crepe pasta. So simple yet it has to be one of my best food memories, when I tasted this dish at Lucio’s Liguria dinner at Capriccio this year.
We ate a beautiful four course lunch chosen by Michela, who expertly matched four of our Chent'annos wines that they pour by the glass. The first course was Sydney Rock oysters from Wallis Creek in the Hunter region, ‘Proscuitto e melone’, and an ‘Ocean Trout Tartare’ matched with our NV Val Piana Prosecco. We were well taken with the oysters served on chilled pebbles. It looked great and offered a more sustainable choice than the usual rock salt. A subtly fresh cucumber ice went with the oysters. Sparkling wine and oysters are a classic match and they didn't disappoint.
The ‘Ocean Trout Tartare’ was the stand out dish for me, up there with the most delicious things I have eaten all year. There was a beautiful balance to the dish with just the right amount of acidity. Our prosecco was a great match, the citrus notes in the wine were more pronounced with the citrus in the dish. There was a strong smokiness from the smoked trout roe to contrast the creaminess of the pea and avocado puree.
Michela matched the 2015 La Tunella pinot grigio to the next course. We loved the theatre of our waiter Aldo expertly sharing our two pastas between us.
Lucio's iconic ‘Black handkerchief pasta with mussels, cuttlefish, prawns and chilli’, involves thin silky ribbons of squid ink pasta. It’s a generous amount of seafood enhanced by perfectly caramelised garlic and just that hint of chilli lifting it all up to perfection. It was quite evident why this dish has been on the menu for many years. It was a fantastic match to the wine bringing out a subtle mineral quality.
Another winning dish is their ‘Rabbit, artichoke and ricotta ravioli with Sicilian olive salsa’. And again it is a beautiful match with our Pinot Grigio. The sweetness in the wine is more pronounced by the sweetness of the rabbit but softened by the saltiness of the olive tapenade.
Our main course was 'Anatra arrosto con radiccio alla griglia' with the 2013 Fattoria di Piazzano Chianti. It is a classic roast duck with buttery grilled radicchio and quince paste. The highlight of this dish for me was an incredible jus. The thick delicious jus amalgamated with the wine and paired perfectly. The duck pleasantly brought out the tannins in the Sangiovese.
We enjoyed a ‘Fennel pollen gelato with milk meringue, strawberry coulis and fresh dried strawberry’ for dessert paired with our 2013 La Tunella Verduzzo. It was the perfect light and refreshing finish to follow three substantial courses. The distinct fennel flavour has come from wild fennel gathered by a dedicated staff member to ensure the freshness of the pollen. The Verduzzo is a native Friulan white grape used for dry or sweet wines. This is a late harvest version where the grapes are left to raisin slightly on the vine enhancing the sweetness and flavours. It is a great alternative to a syrupy sweet botrytis, offering a light, delicately sweet dessert wine.
I was blown away by our lunch and very impressed with Michela's wine matches, it is not often you have a tasting menu where all wine matches are winners. It is evident to see why Lucio's retains its two SMH chef hats year after year. Head chef Nicole Bampton is achieving greatness and she isn't even 30 yet!
Thank you to my dear dining companion Ann Ouchterlony who was my photographer for the day.
A Chent'annos x