1957 Lucia’s Pizza Bar in Adelaide

Lucia’s Pizza Bar opened in 1957 and may well be Australia’s first pizza restaurant, a title claimed for many years by Toto’s in Melbourne.  The cafe, at Adelaide’s Central Market, served home-style Italian pizza and pasta and still has a reputation for serving the city’s best pizza Margherita.

Toto’s wasn’t too far behind, opening in 1961. Pizza may have been a little slower arriving elsewhere in Australia. The first pizzas in the ACT, for example, were at the distinctly Greek-sounding Plaka restaurant in Mawson, which began selling them in 1972. Brisbane took the prize for the first home delivery thanks to Silvio’s Dial-A-Pizza, whose telephone-topped cars began whizzing around the streets in 1978.

While South Australia did not see as many post-war Italian immigrants as Victoria, significant numbers – around 30,000 –  did arrive between 1945 and 1972.  In 1947 the state had just 2,428 Italian residents, but by 1961 the number had grown to 26,230. Adelaide’s Central Market soon saw vendors of Italian origin, selling produce grown in market gardens they established in the Adelaide Hills.  They provided a customer base for an Italian-style eatery at the market.

The business was opened by Lucia Rosella, who had emigrated to Adelaide with her husband in 1956. Lucia grew up in a village called Pago Veiano, less than 100km north of the birthplace of pizza – Naples. Lucia’s husband, Pasquale, had been a prisoner of war in Australia during World War II. Some years after being repatriated at the end of the war he decided to return with his wife and two daughters.

The daughters, Nicky and Maria continue the business today. It is now known as Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar and the menu extends well beyond pizza.

The business has expanded to include a food store – Lucia’s Fine Foods –  supplying specialty ingredients, including their own brands. They claim their tomato-based pasta sauces are only made in summer when freshly harvested full-flavoured tomatoes are available.

Lucia’s pizza and pasta sauces are now available through some specialty food distributors in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia as well as at their store at the Adelaide City Market.

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