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The La Spaghettata Story: From Rags To Riches

Apr 9, 2021 - 1:13pm

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The La Spaghettata Story: From Rags To Riches

When you dine at our traditional Italian Lygon Street restaurant, La Spaghettata, you become part of our family, and our story.

The Cattafi's at home at the dinner table


Welcome to the family

Our authentic Italian restaurant first opened in 1981, but our story starts in 1965, when our parents, our La Spaghettata founders Tony and Giovanni Cattafi, arrived in Australia, from Sicily, Italy.

Our parents grew up poor on farms, and they remember watching all the rich folk having their late dinners out on the town. This made them even more determined to work their way out of poverty, even if it meant leaving home.

So, with only their suitcases, and no English, they worked hard from the moment they arrived, and built their new life from scratch, in West Footscray.

Along the way, the family table grew to include four children, and (spoiler alert!) two of us, Fabio and Mauro, now run the restaurant on Lygon St, Carlton.

Our childhood memories are filled with the aromas of family meals, and the stories shared over Mama’s hearty Italian food. And as we slurped up every drop of Napoli sauce, our parents began planning to bring these cherished Italian flavours and experiences from our home, to the rest of Melbourne.

The Cattafis at home, celebrating Mauro’s birthday


Dreams of Messina

Our parents missed home in Messina, Sicily. And they told us so, frequently! Not just the food and fresh Italian ingredients. Mum and Dad also missed our families and connecting with them through cooking and eating.

And with us kids in mind, they wanted to leave a legacy, and pass their heritage on to future generations. The best way, they reckoned, was the personal way. With a restaurant, they could create a new place for our community — and other communities too — to gather, have a sense of family, and share knowledge and culture. All with the warm embrace of the authentic Italian hospitality we were so lucky to grow up with.

The Cattafi family and friends at the restaurant


La Spaghettata opens its doors

With all burners on, their plan finally came to life, as we welcomed our first customers in 1981, a little after Australia’s 1970s restaurant boom. Aussies were getting used to the idea of café and restaurant culture, so our parents knew it was time to get into the business.

La Spaghettata was, and still is, on Lygon Street, Carlton, and we’re proud to be a part of its history. It’s still known as Melbourne’s central Italian district, and we love being a part of it and the annual Lygon Street Festa (now known as the Melbourne Italian Festa).


The restaurant today

While we’re among the oldest restaurants in Melbourne, we’re one of the last few family-run Italian eateries left on Lygon Street, and we’re proud to say we were the first to start making pasta from scratch, on site. You won’t find pre-made pasta in our kitchen.

And just like yesterday, and the days before that, we still combine our cozy, family atmosphere with traditional dishes Mama made, like bruschetta, pescatora and spaghetti marinara (our seafood is second to none). It’s Italian cuisine at its true best!


Our loyal customers

We’ve seen so many changes, but we still have diners who keep coming back to us for our fresh Italian food, and the hugs, kisses and familiarity as they pull up a chair in our authentic rustic farmhouse building.

We’ve seen the likes of Andrew Bocelli, Valentino Rossi and Kenny Rogers, but our customers are the real stars. We’re always here for you, the families and the lovers, our friends old and new, the busy and those of leisure, ready for a glass of wine (or two) and good Italian food.

Come share a meal with us and be part of a unique Italian dining experience that you can call your own. We’ll see you soon!


Dine at La Spaghettata


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