Beppi Polese Dies: The Godfather Of Italian Cuisine

The godfather of Italian cuisine has died: Beppi Polese. He was age 90.

Oh, if those restaurant walls could talk – the decades of stories!  Beppi’s Italian Restaurant was founded in 1956 by Beppi and his wife Norma. The family still owns the restaurant, and son Marc still runs the establishment today.

Beppi’s is the very first Italian restaurant opened in Australia.

Today, as part of the CIRA (Council of Italian Restaurants in Australia) lunch meeting I attended as committee member (from Euro Concepts and The Wog With The Grog), the committee were set to present a special plaque to Beppi Polese.

Sadly, he died overnight – peacefully, in his sleep.

My father Claudio worked at Beppi’s in 1968 and 1969. The stories he tells are too numerous to mention here. Suffice to say, they are as plentiful as they are colourful, harking back from an era where Italian waitstaff and chefs and kitchen hands saw equally colourful clientele dine at the venues, and the glory days of a very new cuisine into the country meant a captive audience, ready to eat up all that was on offer, in every way.

Stories of a close camaraderie between staff, which meant that while the customer was always right, the boys always stuck together.

The article by Damien Murphy in http://www.smh.com.au is accurate in its description of the man:

Beppi Polese a founding father of Sydney’s long love affair with Italian food, has died on the eve of his famous Yurong Street restaurant’s 60th anniversary.

In a statement, his family said what mattered to Beppi was food, family and friends and his restaurant was his gift to Sydney.

“At the restaurant he so lovingly built and the clientele he so loyally served, Beppi Polese was a great man; exceptional yet humble, traditional yet refined,” the statement said.

“He has served everyone from sitting prime ministers to Hollywood and rock royalty.”

The journalist David Dale co-authored the book Beppi: A Life in Three Courses and won the 1983 Walkey award for feature writing with his story The Italian Waiter Conspiracy which portrayed Beppi as the prime mover in the rise of Italian food in Sydney.

“He was a true pioneer,” Dale said. “A hard task-master, a perfectionist. When I interviewed him, the first thing he wanted to know was what other restaurateurs thought about him: ‘Did they say I was a bastard?’. I could but agree”

Read the whole SMH story here.

Here is his book cover, from ‘Beppi: A Life In Three Courses’.

beppi polese book

Story: Robert Dessanti

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