What happens when a man falls in love with the land? If you ask dreamer and businessman, Lillino Luigi Pinna, he’ll tell you that’s exactly how his restaurant was born.
In 2001 Luigi was driving along Talga Road with his real estate agent, and was instantly drawn to a property by the name of St Clements of Red Hill. What followed was a match made in heaven. With a vision to create a cellar door and restaurant on the one property, Luigi and his family set about planting typical Hunter Valley grape varietals such as semillon and shiraz. However, he also wanted to introduce new varieties to the region, so planted verdelho, grenache, merlot, pinot grigio, nebbiolo and barbera as well.
The result is a diverse array of unique drops, presented under the St Clements name. The signature wine could be considered the B.N.G, a lovely blend of barbera, nebbiolo and grenache, but it’s not the only drop worth trying. Luigi is also very proud of his Cannonau, a limited edition wine made in very special dry years from grenache grapes. It acts as a reminder of his Sardinian origin, where the Cannonau is very popular.
To complete the dream, all Luigi needed was a restaurant. When he opened Lillino’s Bar and Trattoria in 2011, he wanted to bring the true flavours of Sardinia and Italy to his beloved Hunter Valley. To do this, the family planted olive trees along the road leading up to the restaurant, emphasising the Italian feel and giving the property a Tuscan look. It also made the restaurant self- sufficient when it came to olive products, growing and producing olive oil and olives on-site.
Slowly but surely Lillino’s has became a culinary playground for locals, visitors and even celebrities, offering guests a taste of true Italian cuisine. Many dishes are based on traditional recipes from Luigi’s family, meaning he is able to pair seasonal local produce with the very best in imported products, including Culatello, Parmigiano Reggiano , Sardinian pecorino and Caputo flour.
This emphasis on seasonality means dishes change regularly and every visit will bring something new. No matter the time of year, you’ll find a mouth-watering selection of pastas, the flavour combinations of which vary. If you’re lucky, you can order the Malloreddus, which features small durum wheat pasta shapes combined in a spicy red sauce with homemade pork sausage and sprinkled with Sardinian pecorino cheese. Another option could be Luigi’s linguine, tossed in a special tomato-based sauce with prawns, shallots, garlic, oregano, parsley, brandy and a little gorgonzola.
There’s also plenty of pizzas and mains to go around, with flavour combinations once again changing based on what the kitchen team can find.
Not content with just a cellar door and restaurant, Luigi also makes some fantastic liqueurs, including limoncello, nocino, amaretto and a variety of flavoured and plain grappas.
What makes Lillino’s so remarkable is the combination of excellent, local wine; traditional Sardinian flavours; and the stunning views of the Hunter Valley. Sit back and soak in the natural beauty of the magnificent St Clements vineyards nestled in among the mountains, and enjoy the attentive, friendly service and authentic Italian meals.