Q&A: From Naples with love – the road to creating Australia’s best pizza

This week we talk to Lucio De Falco. Lucio discovered his love for pizza working in his aunt and uncle’s restaurant in Naples, Italy. Since then, he has ventured out to achieve his dream of owning his own restaurant, establishing Sydney’s Lucio Pizzeria in 2008. Lucio’s hard work was rewarded recently when his signature dish was awarded the title of “Best Pizza in Australia” at the Pizza World Championships in Italy.

ISB: When and how did you make your way to Sydney from your hometown in Naples?

LDF: I came to Sydney in 2002 after a friend of mine contacted me. His boss was scouting for a pizza chef here in Sydney, and he wanted to know if I was interested. I took the job, and I was sponsored by the company – and what was meant to be a working holiday turned into my career, and Sydney became my home.

ISB: What made you decide to venture into the pizza restaurant business?

LDF: I come from a hospitality background. My family has always worked in restaurants, so I’ve worked in the industry since the age of 14.

I’ve always loved the buzz, and since I started working, I’ve been passionate about the style of pizza we do. I wanted to bring this traditional style of pizza to Sydney.

ISB: How did you fund setting up your first Lucio Pizzeria?

LDF: I had to take the risk and source funding from various places. I managed to save some money, my family lent me some money and I also got an overdraft facility from the bank.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the business off the ground, and how did you overcome that?

LDF: The traditional Neapolitan style of pizza that we do was not recognised at all in Sydney, so the first few years were very hard. Slowly I was able to educate the customers on what authentic Neapolitan style pizza was all about, as well as introducing them to other traditional neapolitan specialties we offer.

I knew I just had to be patient, and I worked hard and believed in my product. I knew I would be rewarded one day!

ISB: What do you consider the highlight for the business thus far?

LDF: I honestly think right now is a highlight. After 11 years we are a well-established business, and Lucio’s Pizzeria is recognised as one of the best in Sydney. We have two venues now, and consistency is the key to our success.

ISB: And how do you see the business developing in the next few years?

LDF: I’m looking to branch out to do catering and events for public and private clients. Expansion is always on the horizon also, but the biggest consideration is finding the right location.

ISB: Lastly, what piece of advice would you give to anyone with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?

LDF: It is not easy – and don’t expect to make money in five minutes. It takes a lot of patience, hard work, and determination to get things going. If you have a good product and you believe in the product, it will eventually take off, but it certainly isn’t easy. After 11 years I’m still working hard and I’m still doing extremely long hours – so, you have to love what you do, and you have to believe in your business.

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