28 September 2022

Five minutes with Luke Piccolo of Limone Dining in Griffith

| Oliver Jacques
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Luke Piccolo cooking

Luke Piccolo is an award-winning chef who could work anywhere in the world but chooses to live in his hometown, Griffith. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Who is Luke Piccolo? I’m the owner of Limone Restaurant in Griffith, which sources its ingredients from our farm (Piccolo Family Farm). I feel like I’m still in my 20s but I’m actually now 33. I’ve had the chance to work at some of Italy’s top restaurants and have done a cooking scholarship in Colorado. I’m passionate about regional cuisine and love to use simple, fresh ingredients.

Best recent dining experience: Alberto’s Lounge in Surry Hills in Sydney. They do really good-quality, simple Italian food.

Favourite cuisine: Italian, obviously, especially the cuisine of the Sardinia region [an island in the Mediterranean Sea just north of Africa], which blew me away when I first tried it. The culture is ingrained in the food.

Limone dish

Tagliolini, fermented mushroom sauce, sautéed mushrooms and oyster mushroom powder. Photo: Supplied.

Most embarrassing pantry item: Jatz crackers and tasty cheese. But I’m not embarrassed about it. I could live off them.

What ingredient can you not live without: Eggs. They’re just in everything.

Best coffee spot in Riverina: Apart from us I’d say Bertoldo’s Bakery. I get takeaway coffee from them.

Next big thing in the Riverina food scene: The celebration of regional cuisine. We are seeing more and more Riverina events based around food. Menus are listing the regions and the producers under each item. I want the Riverina to become known for its unique food. I want people to ask for Riverina dishes and wines when they go to a restaurant.

A must-try on our menu: The Murray cod. It’s really unique to our area. Or any dish that uses produce from our farm.

Murray Cod.

The Murray cod is a signature dish. Photo: Supplied.

My biggest culinary influence: My nonna got me interested in cooking from a young age. Nino Zoccali also taught me a lot when I worked at [Sydney’s] Restaurant Pendolino. Also, Giovanni Pilu of Pilu at Freshwater [on Sydney’s Northern Beaches], where I also worked for a while.

Favourite cookbook: I have a few but at the moment it’s Best Kitchen Basics by Mark Best.

Who I admire in the Riverina food and wine scene: Stu Whytcross [founder of Voyager Craft Malt in Whitton]. He’s shown a lot of grit to go from a schoolteacher to coming up with his business. We share a lot of the same values.

This week’s specials: Our asparagus and artichokes. Our asparagus has just been pulled out of the ground. The first of the season is the best.


Jerusalem artichokes . Photo: supplied.

Death-row meal: Aglio, olio e peperoncino [spaghetti with garlic, oil and chilli] and a side of thin fries.

My least-favourite food: Passionfruit. I don’t mind the taste but I don’t like the gritty texture and the seeds. Also microwaved foods. I never use a microwave. Up until 18 months ago I had never had one in my house (when my partner brought in hers). I’d only use a microwave for melting things (fact check: his partner Bonnie Owen claims he secretly loves having a microwave).

My COVID-19 response: We adapted and worked much harder. We set up a mobile van and did lots of takeaway. We survived and kept all our staff in jobs.

My top-three cooking tips: 1. Keep it simple. 2. Use good, fresh ingredients. 3. Plan and prepare well. You don’t want to be rushing in the supermarket at 4 pm if you’re hosting a dinner party that night. Break it up over two or three days beforehand. You want to be able to enjoy a night if you’re hosting, so be prepared and don’t overdo it.

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