“To Giovanna… Al Dente?!! Buonissimo!” La Strada

August 11, 2017

la strada biz card (2)

Maybe it’s because she’s been having a bad run lately in terms of her health, but I spent last weekend going through old shoeboxes containing photos and newspaper clippings of my 81-year-old mother, Giovanna.

For those who don’t know Giovanna, she is a force of nature (understatement!) and taught me everything I know about cooking. Mum was born in Naples — right in the centre, not the outskirts, as she is fond of reminding everyone — but came to Australia by herself in the mid-50s with little money and no English. She started out as a dishwasher, but quickly worked her way up to become head chef at Buonasera, owned by Sydney-based Italian architect, Ettore Prossimo. Ettore and mum become eventual partners at La Favorita restaurant. From there she went on to own and run her own restaurants, O Sole Mio, Giovannas, La Strada and then, of course, Machiavelli, along with myself and my sister, Caterina.

For those of you too young to remember, La Strada was the restaurant mum opened on Macleay Street, Potts Point. Mum took the name from one of her favourite Fellini films starring Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina.

I used to go to La Strada to help mum out after school finished. Whenever somebody didn’t turn up for work — a dishwasher, kitchen hand or sous chef — I’d go in and help. That’s how I learnt to cook.

I’m biased, of course, but La Strada was the place to be during the 80s. Every major superstar, actor and band would come and eat the restaurant whenever they were in town: everyone from  Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Freddie Mercury, Bruce Springsteen, Sylvester Stallone and Lauren Bacall to George Michael, Michael Hutchence and Johnny Depp (Depp was travelling without dogs back then)

With that in mind, here are some pages we scanned from La Strada’s guest book. I love the Michael Hutchence quote. It perfectly conveys the irrepressible life force that was in the man. And in case you’re wondering what Cyndi Lauper is talking about, she took a bite out of the book (but we saved it).

Get better, mum. We miss you.

inxs

rod stewart

sting springsteen simple minds nigel mansell phil collins queen juventus meatloaf johnny depp dire straits dino laurentis bors becker crosby stills nash cyndi lauper baez bob geldorf dennis quaid

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