You may think that your knowledge of Italian culture is confined to Ferrari, spaghetti Bolognese, pizza, tiramisu, cappuccino, pepperoni, salami and Lamborghini, but most Queenslanders have a much deeper relationship with Italians and Italian culture than they may realise…..
Following the end of WWII, food, employment and money were scarce in Italy. In contrast, Australia was in desperate need of labourers, particularly in the sugar cane and tobacco industries in central and northern Queensland. The Australian and Italian governments negotiated a scheme of recruitment and assisted passages, which became fully effective in 1952 and saw record numbers of Italians immigrating in the following two decades.
Working in the Valley in the 80s, Italian restaurants like the Giardinetto (opened by Gino Fiorini), Lucky’s (owned by Luciano Morselli for more than 25 years) and the Cosmopolitan café were the go-to staples for work lunches. For take-away, the New Farm Deli which commenced life in 1975 as New Farm Continental Delicatessen at 81 Merthyr Rd, was a favourite. Having opened in the 60s and 70s, their owners had paid their dues and along with other venues like Gambaro Seafood Restaurant, these establishments had become integral components of Brisbane’s culinary life.
Companies founded by successful Italian immigrants like Francesco De Pasquale, co-founder of Nanda, “the Australian company that sells pasta to Italy”, Silvio Bevacqua, founder of Silvio’s Dial-a-Pizza in Red Hill, who bought the master franchise for Dominos Pizza in Australia, and Gino Merlo, founder of Milano restaurant in Queen Street whose name is now synonymous with coffee, are all huge Brisbane success stories. La generazione di oggi non poteva immaginare un tempo prima della consegna della pizza.
But Italian cultural influences have extended far beyond food and have continued with second and third generations. If you’re now curious to learn about Italian culture, why not contact the Italian Language Centre (ILC) and enquire about Italian language and culture classes? Choose between grammatical Italian or conversational Italian and stay tuned for the next instalment to read more about Brisbane’s Italian history, when we reveal which Italian Brisbane restaurateur had the honour of making pasta for Pavarotti in the 1990s.