A pioneer of the Tasmanian restaurant industry who transformed fine dining on the Coast has died.
Gianni (John) Licandro opened the first stand-alone licensed restaurant in Tasmania in 1968, The Martini Restaurant, and introduced locals to cappuccinos with the first Italian coffee machine in Burnie.
The 94-year-old will be remembered for his dedication to excellent service and exquisite food and his numerous establishments, from the Don Coffee Lounge to Moby Dicks and Rialto.
“He was a loving, family man, giving, locally-orientated and an entrepreneur to the hospitality industry,” his youngest son Dario said.
“It’s a sad loss for the North-West.”
Mr Licandro was born in Bordonaro, Sicily in 1924 and moved to Australia when he was 27 in 1951.
He moved to the North-West in 1959 after opening the Continental Grocery & Delicatessen and Capri in Hobart and managing the Cazbah in Melbourne.
He married Elaine Fall of Penguin in 1961 and had five children: Marisa, Daniela, Marc, Beppi and Dario.
Mr Licandro was a dedicated father who was always keen to share his passion for food with his children, four of which would later work in the hospitality industry.
I have worked through some of the best restaurants in Australia and he has given me the foundation of everything I know.
But Mr Licandro also had a unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit.
He bought the Don Coffee Lounge in Devonport in 1964 but sold it two years later to open the Martini Coffee Lounge in Wilson Street, Burnie.
The venture was a roaring success and in 1968 he opened a restaurant upstairs after painstakingly working to secure Tasmania’s first alcohol licence for a stand-alone venue.
The Martini Restaurant opened with a performance by singer Tony Pantano, the first of many cabaret acts Mr Licandro brought in.
He also arranged visits by Italian chefs and staff who helped The Martini Restaurant earn a strong reputation for fine dining.
The venue won numerous Golden Plate Awards before Mr Licandro sold it in 1980 and took over the Rialto Gallery Restaurant.
A second Rialto opened in Devonport a decade later but was sold in 2001 when Mr Licandro opened Giannis Restaurant in Burnie.
The Rialto in Burnie remains in the Licandro family and is operated by son Marc.
Mr Licandro died on May 17 and was farewelled by friends and family at a service at the Star of the Sea Church in Burnie last Friday.
A eulogy was delivered by his friend of 60 years and former Braddon MHA Ron Cornish, who spoke of Mr Licandro’s friendliness, generosity, practical jokes, community conscience, devout faith and keen interest in politics.
“John Licandro was a loyal friend who made a significant contribution to his adopted home: Burnie,” Mr Cornish said.
“He will be sadly missed by family and friends, but has left us with many valuable and happy memories”.