Monday, February 3, 2014

Mama Luigi's Restaurant, Spring Hill

Back in the 1960s Brisbane's dining out scene was quite sparse, unlike today where there is a cafe or restaurant in almost every suburb. In those days there were a couple of decent restaurants in the city and beyond that you were looking at a pub counter meal.

One restaurant that I remember fondly from back then was Mama Luigi's on St Pauls Terrace in Spring Hill. For many of us it was our first foray into Italian cuisine - I had certainly never eaten garlic or pasta at home before that time.

That Mama Luigi's no longer exists, although I think the name has been re-used by others. I recently came across a couple of nostalgic images of the original restaurant and its staff.

Here they are. Firstly, the venue itself - it is clearly a converted house. And I think that taxi at the front could be from one of our now-defunct cab companies, Blue & White.
(Photo: BCC-S35-9311262)

Next, some of the restaurant staff looking extremely cheerful. The range hood seems a little on the grimy side though.
(Photo: National Archives of Australia)

There are a few reminiscences about Mama Luigi's on the internet. I like this one that I found on the 1 million Women site:
"I remember many years ago there was an Italian restaurant just like this in Brisbane called Mama Luigi's.  The American soldiers who were stationed in Brisbane and of course Australian families and friends frequented this place regularly. There were long tables and people sat with other people and really enjoyed the experience.of making new friends as everyone liked to talk with each other..." 

tff

16 comments:

  1. Hi foto fanatic, I'm so glad you're back doing that thing you do :) Love reading all your snippets of Bristown history.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment - I appreciate it!

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  2. Ugly restaurant front but delicious and exotic food, apparently.

    I probably told you about remembering the first espresso machine imported from Italy in 1956. The Olympic Games gave Australia a great old nudge towards modernity and European night life.

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    1. Yes Hels, though I think that Brisbane took a lot longer to move into a cosmopolitan atmosphere than did Melbourne. Brisbane was still rather quaint in the 1960s.

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  3. Ah fond memories! Coming to Briz in 1963 from Sydney it was a step back in time and Mama Luigi's was one of the brighter spots. They beat the heck out of T-Bones, flattened them to a plate-size, crumbed and fried them. Something else! Tender as …
    Then there was the Windmill on Petrie Terrace, about all that was open after 9 at night - the extent of Brisbane's night life in the 60s.

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    1. Exactly! And most Brisbane diners sat down with a glass of beer next to their plate. Ordering wine with a meal was almost unheard of.

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  4. I love your posts! I am your new follower. :D

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  5. We used to go regularly to Mama Luigis in 1953 and 54. It cost 2/6 per person for all you could eat. When all the seats at your table were taken the kitchen would send out a huge platter of the night's main dish, and once that was empty you could get a replacement from the servery. There was no choice - you went on chicken night, veal night or spaghetti bolognaise night. If you were lucky, Bob Dwyer was in the house in which case you got meatballs with your spaghetti. I can't remember ever being offered a dessert, but you didn't need one because you were so full from the main course.

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    1. Sounds like bargain rates Frank!

      I didn't go there before the late 60s, but I do recall that even then the portions were generous and the prices were moderate.

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  6. My parents owned this restaurant in the early nineties. It was called vangorphs on at Paul's.

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  7. Thanks for the info.
    I'm afraid that I don't recall visiting the restaurant post-Mama Luigi.

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  8. I went to Mama Luigi's in the 50's & 60's and remember my uncle talking to me about it when I was quite young. A real Brisbane icon. I also remember Laurie De Ambrose sketching patrons while they were eating. I believe he was a son of the owner. It was always consistently good. Very fond memories of good times. Beth

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  9. My Dad just told me how good this place was and told me to look it up. He said it was the best!

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  10. Mama Luigi's was really something! In the mid-to-late 60s I was a young reporter on the old Brisbane Telegraph and was introduced to Mama by Pat Lloyd, a colourful character who was the paper's Police Roundsman. After that it became a Friday routine to lunch with Mama.
    For 10 shillings you could have as much spaghetti as you liked, and when ready you moved on to half a fried chicken with salad. Included for the big eaters like Pat was a dessert of home made apple pie and icecream - which was probably a menu carryover from the war years when the place was frequented by Yanks.
    I have eaten spaghetti in numerous styles in restaurants in a dozen countries but never found one that matched Mama Luigi's. It was not a bolognase with the usual tomato red sauce. You simply asked for "spaghetti" and you got a mammoth metal server with spaghetti piled up about four inches high.
    I don't know what was in the sauce, but we did not want its secret to be lost. So when we heard the restaurant was going to change hands, Pat and I tried to talk the manager/owner into giving us the recipe. But no luck.
    The other great thing about Mama Luigi's was that you automatically had to mix in with other diners on the long wooden tables with bench seats on either side. You could roll up on your own and soon be dining and chatting with a host of happy strangers. I met many new friends there.
    I went back only once after it changed hands, because the magic had gone. John Philp

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