When the then-Locantro deli (now named Locantro Bakery) opened almost 30 years ago in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of Leichhardt, it quickly became a central part of the local Italian community. But not much has changed over the last three decades, including the traditional family recipes used to make Locantro’s authentic Italian pastries, cakes and sweets.
Husband-and-wife team, Franca and Vittorio Locantro, opened the shop in 1994 after migrating from Italy to Australia. It epitomised la dolce vita (the sweet life), serving pastries every morning and cured meats and cheese for aperitivo.
Brothers Adriano and Pino Locantro are founding members and have witnessed its evolution. They took over the family business in 2005 and transformed it from a deli into what it is today. Pino helms the kitchen, Adriano manages the front of house and catering, and their parents help in the bakery when needed.
Adriano says, “Food is a way of life in Italy, and for Italo-Australians, it’s in our blood.
“Italians are always proud of their food and passionate about sharing.”
“Food is a way of life in Italy, and for Italo Australians, it’s in our blood.”
Locantro prides itself on making 90 per cent of its products fresh daily. The front counter is reserved for Adriano’s favourite item: cartocci, a Sicilian spiral-shaped doughnut rolled in sugar and filled with vanilla custard.
“As a kid, we always went and bought cartocci from Sulfaro’s [Sulfaro Pasticceria] in Haberfield where we lived,” he recalls. “The only problem was that the majority of the time, we walked past after school and there was never any left.”
Pino’s favourite sweet is cicerchiata, a honey-coated ring cake made of deep-fried pastry balls.
“Every Christmas and Easter, our nonna made cicerchiata in her Lilyfield home and encouraged the grandchildren to participate,” Adriano says. “It was like a mass production, where everyone got involved. Nonna was fussy with the way you handled the pastry and wanted all pieces the exact same size. She taught me a lot about the importance of consistency and about baking with care.”
From the hand-rolled cannoli, butter croissants and freshly baked bread to the signature ricotta cheesecake and tiramisu, Pino continues to uphold this level of care.
Pino dreamed of being a pastry chef at age 15 years old, and after learning the basics from his nonna, completed an apprenticeship. The chef has since received multiple accolades for his craft.
Adriano says, “A few years back, Pino and the team won [the] ‘Champion Exhibitor’ [award] at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show in the pastry division. This was because we received the most gold medals, including for our croissants, ricotta cake and chocolate tarts.”
“When it’s that good, you just don’t get sick of it.”
Pino’s traditional Italian cakes also are also loved in the community; they have graced the table at countless family celebrations including their own. Every birthday, the brothers rotate between their two favourites: strawberries and cream, and mille-feuille.
“When it’s that good, you just don’t get sick of it,” Adriano laughs.
Locals agree and many return to get the same celebration cake at Locantro’s every year.
“Initially, the majority of our customers were Italians and Europeans,” Adriano says. “A lot of their kids and grandchildren now pop in to say hi and give us an update on their famiglia.”
The Locantro family is proud to be a part of Leichhardt’s strong Italian community. Even Pino’s kids, Alegra and Ottavio, help out during the school holidays, carrying on the legacy of their family bakery.
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9- 11 Catherine Street, Leichhardt, NSW