Lucia Rosella

In 1956, one year after her arrival, Lucia Rosella opened a pizza bar in the Central Market. Lucia’s is now the oldest surviving Italian pizza bar and café in Adelaide. Born and raised on a small farm in Pago Veiano, Italy, with her four sisters and brother, Lucia met her husband Pasquale, on his return to Italy after he had been a prisoner of war in Victoria. After their marriage, Pasquale realised his dream to return to Australia. Lucia and their children joined him two and a half years later. Lucia’s café is now managed by her daughters, Nicolina Bugeja and Maria Rosella. However, Lucia still makes her special tomato sauce.

Nicolina Bugeja 2002 

Lucia Rosella’s story 

My husband, Pasquale, had fallen in love with Australia when he was an Italian prisoner of war. I didn’t like it in the beginning because I couldn’t speak English – people would say good morning but I couldn’t answer back. I wanted to earn some money to help my husband but I couldn’t because when I looked for a job they would say, ‘Come back when you’ve learnt to speak English.’ Then, one day, my Australian next-door neighbour smelt my cooking and said, ‘Lucia, what are you cooking?’ I couldn’t explain it to her, so I gave her a taste. She loved it. It was a pizza. She kept saying, ‘Start up a pizza bar! Start up a pizza bar!’ That was in 1957. I found a little place in the market and I said, ‘That’s the one for me.’

It wasn’t a very big place. I served pizza, spaghetti, cakes and sandwiches. Lots of people used to come in after the football for a pizza. They all enjoyed it and some wanted to cook it at home. That made me very happy because I enjoy my food and I like everybody else to enjoy it too. And I love to serve people. Now there is a pizza bar on every corner people like it so much.

In those days people didn’t drink much coffee. People drank a lot of chicken soup and Bonox and chocolate. So, I used to put a percolator on the stove and make just a couple of cups at a time, and when I finished one pot I’d make another. People would ask what coffee was like and I’d say, ‘You’ll have to try it for yourself.’ If it was too strong, I’d just put some milk in it. You have to be a little bit clever to select the coffee beans and when you’ve mixed the coffee, you have to try it first. If you like it, everybody will like it – if you don’t like it, nobody will. After trying my coffee some people said, ‘I’ll never drink tea anymore, just coffee.’

But it was hard working as a woman in those days. People would say, ‘Why don’t you stay at home?’ And I’d say, ‘If it’s alright for you, you were born in Australia. You have money. I need to work and I want to help my husband so we can carry the load together/’ Pasquale had another job. When he finished working, he’d come and help me at night. So did my children. I’d bring them with me in the morning and make sure they had a good breakfast, then they’d go to school. They’d come back later, I’d cook them dinner and they’d help me in the pizza bar.