Lillino’s Restaurant. Six years ago, one of Lovedale’s most treasured restaurants opened its doors for the first time. Read more to find out how one man’s vision turned the dream into a reality.
The Making of a Dream
“Well, who said that love at first sight does not exist? Whoever they may be, they are certainly wrong, but how can you fall in love with a piece of dirt? Well, it is now very simple to see, as the vision I have long been dreaming of has finally been realised.”
So says Luigi Pinna, the owner of St Clement’s Estate vineyard and Lillino’s restaurant in Lovedale, Hunter Valley.
Luigi remembers the moment he first saw the property: “It was June 15, 2001. I remember driving along Talga Road with the Estate Agent, who pointed at a gate and stated, “Oh, and by the way, this property is also for sale!
“I noticed the sign on the gate ‘St Clements of Red Hill’ and immediately remarked: I think that we would probably be better off with a different name, perhaps something aboriginal? But, with this vision of the gate, the vision of the steep hill at the end of the track was also impressed on me, and this image has never disappeared.
By July 2001 I had made the decision that this was the place at which I would like to rest my bones, and it was from this moment that the hard work began. Settlement was not finalised until March 2002, and following this, work began in May to June of the same year, clearing the site and ripping through that beautiful soil that lay waiting, like a sleeping princess, to be woken up and brought to life, to be given what she was born to bear.”
Luigi and his team planted Semillon grapevines in September 2002 , a variety well known for producing stunning wines in the Hunter Valley. This was followed by Shiraz and Merlot in September.
The first vintage of Semillion, Shiraz & Merlot was in 2005. The range now includes Verdelho, Grenache & the Italian varietials of Pinot Grigio, Nebbiolo & Barbera. All wines are proudly estate grown.
After a major building process, the cellar door opened in December 2010 & the restaurant followed a little over 6 months later on June 25, 2011.
The aim of the restaurant is to introduce to the Hunter the true flavours of Sardinia and Italy, using as much local produce as possible, while also importing the finest ingredients from Italy, like Prosciutto di Parma, mozzarella, parmesan and pizza flour directly from Napoli.
Specialities include wood fired pizzas, which some claim are the best in the Hunter. House made potato gnocchi with a creamy gorgonzola sauce. Luigi’s linguine with king prawns and a special tomato sauce is a local favourite. Rotolini – house made ricotta cheese rolled in crumbed eggplant and baked served with a tomato sauce and topped with parmesan.
Desserts include tiramisu, chocolate fondant, panna cotta or affogato.
Lillino’s and the Cellar Door at St Clement’s are open Thursday to Monday. Lunch 12-3 and Dinner from 6 pm.
The unusual label seen on the wines is taken from a Father’s Day card, which was given to Luigi by his daughter Kristy. Luigi thought it resembled the hardships and joys of building and running a vineyard: “A little angel with a huge smile, but with a tear on his face – fortunately it is a tear of joy”, says Luigi.
Find Lillino’s and the St Clement’s Cellar Door at 136 Talga Road, Lovedale.