The Old Macaroni Factory in Hepburn Springs, Victoria, was built by brothers Giacomo and Pietro Lucini in 1859. It is claimed to be the first pasta factory in Australia. However, Pietro Lucini had begun making pasta in Melbourne some years earlier, moving to the goldfields when there was little demand for his product. It’s not entirely clear when his Melbourne business began. Some accounts say he migrated to Australia and opened his first pasta factory in 1854, yet one newspaper account (from 1927) describes a sign near the entrance of the Hepburn Springs building reading “Lucini’s Macaroni Manufactory. Established 1852”.
The area around Daylesford and Hepburn Springs was originally known as the Jim Crow Diggings. It attracted significant numbers of Italians and Italian-speaking Swiss immigrants in the early 1850s, and the region still has many residents with Italian backgrounds. After his move from Melbourne, Pietro Lucini evidently became a baker but, realising that his countrymen would provide a ready market, returned to making pasta (or macaroni, as it was then generally known). His brother had joined him in Australia and together they build a brick and stone factory, where the family continued to produce pasta until the 1930s.
Although theirs may have been the first pasta factory, the Lucinis didn’t have the business to themselves for long. In 1862, The Argus reported that:
A sample of very excellent macaroni, manufactured from Magarey’s superfine Adelaide flour by Mr. Danelli, of Brunswick, has been handed to us for inspection. The sample is equal in appearance to the best imported, and actually preferable in flavour to the majority of shipments arriving here. Both in this article and in vermicelli the field is open to Mr. Danelli, who deserves credit for having opened up a new branch of productive industry.
It seems that, in 1860, the Lucini product remained unknown in Melbourne. However, by 1880, both makers had products on show at the Melbourne International Exhibition. The Lucini pasta evidently won a prize.
In 1927, The Weekly Times included the macaroni factory in an article on tourist attractions in the Daylesford area. The business was still in the hands of the Lucini family and the reporter told of being escorted around the factory by Mr Lucini himself. The factory produced “macaroni, vermicelli, and the Italians’ own especial delight — spaghetti”. The article continued:
The finest wheat and the mineral waters fresh from the springs are utilised, and by means of a most ingenious machine, the hollow rods of macaroni are turned out in large numbers. Finally, they are packed in boxes and cases, and sent off to the principal agent in Daylesford, Mr J. W. King, who in turn forwards them to all parts of the country.
After operations ceased in the 1930s, the factory building remained in the Lucini family and was eventually revived as a restaurant by Maria Viola, the great-granddaughter of Pietro Lucini . However, the restaurant has closed and the fate of Australia’s first pasta factory remains uncertain.