The secret behind Adelaide’s #1 Italian restaurant

The Franklin Street restaurant wants customers to experience more than delicious food platters, seafood and meat dishes; It wants them to feel like family.

Photos: Andrew Teoh.

Luigi Delicatessen is famous for their delicious and often rotating Italian menu. So famous, in fact, that the Franklin street restaurant won the title of Adelaide’s best Italian in 2020 after winning the city’s best breakfast the year prior.

The offerings vary depending on what’s in season and fresh, but on the day of writing, they were offering rich pastas such as spaghetti crab and gnocchi porcini, meat dishes such as pork belly and chicken with truffle, and seafood such as barramundi and squid. The gnocchi and some of the pasta varieties are made fresh daily, which is evident in their taste.

However, despite their popular individual dishes, the Franklin street restaurant is perhaps most known for originating Adelaide’s food board craze. Their signature share platters—which include meat platters, seafood boards, breakfast platters, and pasta boards—are built for sharing, inspired by owner Luigi Di Contanzo’s Napoli upbringing.

“Growing up in Italy, we were raised to share food, with my mom putting everything in the middle of the table and saying ‘here, eat,’” Luigi, who came to South Australia at the age of seven, says.

“We ate not just to feed the mouth and stomach, but the soul; We shared love through food.”

This mentality of sharing food (and love through it) is what inspired Luigi Delicatessen and its unusual rule: no menus allowed.

“Food shouldn’t be communicated through paper,” Luigi says.

“If a waiter drops off a menu and only comes back to ask what I want, I find it offensive.”

Instead, the staff at Luigi Delicatessen takes time to explain the ingredients of each meal, which they know by heart. They ask customers about their preferences and recommend (often customised) dishes based upon what’s fresh, and what fits with dietary requirements.

“This restaurant runs exactly like a home kitchen or a Mediterranean-style restaurant where we ask guests ‘what do you feel like?’ instead of handing them a menu,” Luigi explains.

“It means that all the staff is fluent with all the food that goes out, which is important because they’re the conduit between the kitchen and customer.”

Located in the CBD’s Uniting Communities building, the physical venue embodies the share-focused ideal. The kitchen and bar are open so customers can see their food, coffee and drinks getting prepared (“it’s for transparency, so people can see who’s cooking”), and the window-lit, neutral-toned space is sleek and bright, leaving everything unconcealed. Chalkboard reminders to “love your mamma” and a sculpture dedicated to Luigi’s late mother and children also radiate a family feel.

The beautiful space also doubles as a function space, with room for events indoors or in the outdoor laneway and on or off-site or catering available.

And if somehow, handmade pasta served in a home-cooked manner and warm hospitality from Luigi and his staff don’t make you feel like family—you can chat with Bruno, Luigi’s dad and a frequent customer, or watch the collaborations with his cousin Mauro Buonanno, a five-star chef in Italy, to really feel like a Di Contanzo.

“It’s important that people know Luigi Delicatessen isn’t just about our great food; It’s about the overall experience and making you feel like family; It’s just like a little bit of Italy in the city.”

Find Luigi Delicatessen at 43 Franklin Street.

Find them online here.

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