The story of Lucia's, and a commemorative cup on the side.
Lucia’s and Gerry Wedd unite for Lucia’s 60th anniversary
“We’re sisters, Maria and I. Our mum started Lucia’s in 1957, so that’s why it’s 60 years this year.”
Lucia’s Pizza and Spaghetti Bar is Shop 1, Adelaide Central Markets.
Monday to Thursday 7am to 5pm
Friday 7am to 8.30pm
Saturday 7am to 5pm
Nicci Bugeja tells us about the memories she and her sister, Maria Rosella, share of the shop with the kind of fondness usually reserved for first loves and family.
That’s because, for them, Lucia’s is both their first love and their family.
Lucia’s celebrates its 60th anniversary in the Adelaide Central Markets this July, and has come a long way since it first opened.
Started by Maria and Nicci’s mother, Lucia, and their neighbour, Dana Hill, the pizza and spaghetti bar has a progressive history.
“It’s a very interesting story how it started,” says Nicci.
“When we moved here from Italy, our next door neighbour could smell mum’s cooking. She said ‘what are you cooking, Lucia?’ and mum said ‘pizza.’ And Dana goes ‘I’ve read about that, but I’ve never eaten it.’
“Dana Hill, she was sort of a futuristic type. She read a lot, in magazines from overseas, so she knew a lot, whereas most people didn’t know what a pizza was, unless you had travelled. And hardly anyone travelled then anyway in those days.
“She’s the one who urged mum to start her business. So it was two women who started this space… They had to borrow the money. It was an enterprising thing for women to do in the ’50s. I can’t imagine – in the ’50s women didn’t work, so for two women to start something like this…”
And, of course, the business started by Lucia and Dana was incredibly successful, and has grown exponentially since it began.
“When my Mum first started, there was a bar across here, and it just had 6 stools,” says Nicci.
“The market, before it is what it is now, there was a roadway through it. We were under a stairwell to a company called Windsor Apparel. That’s how it started; with Mum here, people would eat on the counter and she would be inside cooking, so she could manage both serving and cooking. There was no coffee machine then.”
“And, in the 1960s, the market became what it is now.”
Neither Nicci or Maria started out working in the business. Instead they went and office work at their mother’s urging, but they both came back to Lucia’s.
“It was like this is where we belong,” says Nicci.
Under the stewardship of the sisters, Lucia’s has become a modern incarnation of the concept originally brought to life by Lucia and Dana.
“Breakfast has changed, and salads. Salad is a big thing now. We would sell one salad a week maybe when mum started, but now it’s very popular. We’re a more health conscious society I think,” says Nicci.
“We’ve got our basics, which we always have, our Spaghetti Bolognese and our pizza with olive and anchovies – that’s our basic. And our pizza with Napolitano sauce, which is our pizza sauce, but then we’ve added to it. You know, the Carbonaras and the Alla Panna.
“Mum wouldn’t have known them, because it wasn’t traditional, it wasn’t where we came from, the region we came from, Campania in Naples. As people travel, people know more, and we adopt that.”
And the next generation are beginning to come into the business now.
“Simon, my second son, and Leigh, they both – do you know our sauces? They make them now,” says Nicci.
“And the lasagna they sell in the store, and the pasta, that’s all made in the production kitchen. He initiated that. So, next door and Charcuterie Traiteur. They’re the next level, but they all started in [the pizza and spaghetti bar]. And my daughter, she is in the admin section.”
But Nicci and Maria are adamant that they still have their feet firmly planted in the business, with no intentions to slow down.
So, in celebration of their 60th year, Maria and Nicci asked long time friend of the family and the business, and an Adelaide institution in his own right – Gerry Wedd – to design some commemorative cups.
For the artist and ceramicist, the task is close to the heart.
“I’ve been going to Lucia’s for 30 years or so; I was a regular,” he says. “My wife is Maria and Nicci’s cousin, and she used to work in Lucia’s. Obviously I got to know them pretty well, I showed work there in SALA in days gone by. Recently, I did quite a bit of stuff for the Charcuterie.
“I really like making things that people can use, and I like commemorative stuff as well, so it seemed like a nice fit.”
Of his designs, he says the cups are simple, but the designs that adorn them are what’s special.
“There are numbers and diamonds scratched into the face. I just thought it’s always nice if you’ve got little iconic kind of symbol, and when I saw it was a diamond, and, you know, because it’s kind of a cliché kind of thing, but if you do it nicely then it’s kind of a memory symbol.”
The idea behind the cups was to give them as a gift to Lucia’s most loyal customers.
“There are customers who come here every day for lunch. You know, that’s loyalty. And they’ve been coming here for years, so we’d love to give something back,” says Nicci.
But for those not there twice a day every day, the cups will be for sale.
With no recorded start date for the business, Nicci and Maria plan to spend the whole of July celebrating the anniversary.
As well as the cups, Nicci, Maria, and their family will also decorate the walls with photographs from the decades past – an exhibition of memories through the years.
“I think they’re all wonderful. For us, it’s like home. Because, if you think of going somewhere as a child every day, it becomes like going home,” says Nicci.
“So, here is not like coming to work, it’s part of our home, our home life,” adds Maria.