25 Year Celebration

Lucios celebrated 25 years of great food, good friends and of course the legacy of an Italian family which we all love. We hosted a special celebratory evening in February 2013. Regular customers, old waitrons, family and friends joined in the fun and amazing atmosphere of the evening.

Press Release: Celebrating 25 years of food magic with Lucio’s

Legendary Northcliff Italian restaurant Lucio’s Pizzeria celebrates this February as it marks 25 years of food magic, excellent service and lasting friendships.

Lucio’s Pizzeria, a bustling Italian restaurant is famed not only for its great food, but for its friendly, warm, family environment. It is a unique family-owned restaurant since 1987 and is not a formula restaurant.  Many a customer has asked the team to franchise Lucio's Pizzeria, but, “this is totally out the question, as it would never be the same – we are and want to remain unique,” explains owner Bimba Merlo.

It all started with the dream of an Italian man who had spent some years working in his family business of manufacturing concrete pipes and culverts. In 1987, Claudio Merlo took the plunge and bought Lucio’s, at the time a tiny seven-table pizzeria in Blackheath, Northcliff. Over the course of more than 20 years, Claudio grew this family-owned and run pizzeria into the thriving, landmark 140-seater restaurant it is today, pouring his passion, joy and love of food and people into making a restaurant customers would drive across town to eat at. His larger-than-life Italian spirit was reflected in the food, family, the joy of running a family-focused pizzeria and the friendships he made. Indeed, Claudio was as famous for his love of Ferrari as his passion for the restaurant. His diners weren’t just customers, they were part of La Famiglia, a tradition that his wife Bimba, has continued since she took over the running of the restaurant after Claudio’s tragic, unexpected passing in early January of 2009.

Bimba Merlo (Bimba is the Italian word for 'little girl') and her team are an example of amazing woman power, unusual in the restaurant industry. Fifteen kitchen ladies, three female managers and a largely female waitron staff make sure that no detail is overlooked and everyone has a fantastic meal paired with great value and exceptional service and dining experience. In 25 years of service, this family has perfected the art of the homely eatery where families are always welcome to linger, and the standards and quality never waiver. Dining at Lucio’s is like finding a little slice of Italy for a few hours, a local taste of Italy presented in an uncomplicated approach that never disappoints – and 25 years in serving the community is a testament to the quality and standards the whole family hold dear, proving that Lucio’s Pizzeria has stood the taste of time.  Every experience of the diners, waitrons and the staff are all woven into the Lucio's tapestry, and everyone who has frequented or worked at Lucio’s is a part thereof.

Now more than ever, it is a real Italian family affair, with Bimba, together with two of her five sisters are involved in the running of the restaurant, while Armando her younger son, spends time in the restaurant on certain days to interact with the customers, many of whom saw him as a baby and have watched him grow up and work at Lucios during school holidays. A part of the late Claudio, and with his father’s legendary charm, customers always enjoy chatting to him. Bimba met Claudio at the age of 19, when he was just 20. They married four years later and had two sons Giuliano and Armando. This close family and rock-steady marriage lasted 25 years until Claudio’s untimely passing. Giuliano, their older son, whom customers and staff also watched grow up, and who worked part-time at the pizzeria during school holidays, passed away in October 2010. The mother and son duo, Bimba and Armando, are a great example to others that despite suffering tragedy, life goes on, however difficult it may be. The duo are forever grateful to the community, their customers, waitrons, kitchen ladies, suppliers, family and friends for the support throughout all these years, and especially throughout these tragedies.

Having been very successfully involved in the corporate world until Claudio’s passing, Bimba stepped in to manage and run the restaurant she had unexpectedly inherited, having no restaurant experience at all. “I am grateful that my husband and I spent hours talking and discussing the restaurant. These discussions were so important to me because it made things a little easier for me as everything made sense and fell into place when I took over,” she says. Bimba has a steady hand on the wheel, and is in the restaurant just about every day. Her creativity and love for all things Italian is evident in the eclectic classic Italian décor, beautiful mosaics and stained glass details throughout. She has added her own touch to Claudio’s restaurant legacy, and the testament to that love and care are the loyal diners who return again and again to sample the menu, safe in the knowledge that consistency and a dedication to excellence is at the very heart of what’s on offer.

Customers who first came as children with their parents, or as young varsity students, now return with their children to share the unique experience of a restaurant where you can enjoy simple, excellent food in an unhurried atmosphere – without having to break the piggy bank to enjoy it. Every customer is treated like a celebrity, and every celebrity like another member of La famiglia. And it’s not just the diners who can’t bear to leave – some of the kitchen staff have been working at Lucio’s as young ladies since the very start of the journey with Claudio, while waitrons who have since moved on into the business world still return, some with their young children, to share a laugh and a tasty meal at the tables they once served. Ever since customers and waitrons walked into this restaurant many, many years ago, they have not only tasted good food, friendly service and a wonderful vibe, but they have also tasted good friendship! While Lucio’s is famous for its mouth-watering range of pizzas and pastas, the extensive menu also offers a variety of antipasti, salads, pasta dishes including a range of baked pasta al forno and, of course, la carne – the carnivore’s choice.

Even with so much to celebrate, Bimba is not prepared to rest on her laurels and take her treasured customers for granted. At the end of 2012 she launched a website for the restaurant, www.luciospizzeria.co.za, the first restaurant website in the country to offer a fully illustrated menu online. Now restaurant guests can peruse the menu in detail before they arrive, and relax in the knowledge that their favourite dish awaits them. Bimba also has some exciting plans for the coming year, including reintroducing the tradition of Wednesday 'specials', a cooked meal totally different to the normal menu offering, as well as other potential menu additions that will be unveiled later in the year.

A self-confessed “busy body” who simply cannot sit still, Bimba reveals that a Lucio’s cookbook is part of her plans. “It will be a recipe book with a difference, something very special,” she promises.  With some decorating updates in the bar area also planned, it’s going to be a busy and exciting 25thanniversary year at Lucio’s Pizzeria.

img_3884Bimba, Armando and their extended “restaurant family” will be celebrating this month – and this year, when they mark two and a half decades of food, family and relaxed dining style. “We have experienced our most special moments at Lucio’s. Lucio’s is not a restaurant to us, it's a place where we visit our friends, and get fed at the same time,” say some of these loyal, lifetime customers.

Contact details: www.luciospizzeria.co.za | T 011 678 0042 / 011 476 2183