Memoriam Luciano Arturo Lucky Morselli (2024)

Luciano Arturo Morselli

Lucky Morselli of Lucky’s Trattoria

Husband of Cornelia (aka Connie), father of Patricia, Cinzia and Luca (aka Luke) with his 1st wife Adelina who pre-deceased him.

a life well lived

Gone but never forgotten — Luciano Morselli – known as “Lucky” was born in Mirandola, Italy on 14th December, 1935, as Lucky would remind us, “to a poor family of laborers“.

As a 14 year old boy, family money shortages forced him to begin working as a waiter at a Manca, a canteeen where laborers exchanged vouchers for meals. Seaside work in the summers followed, and in winter of 1953, he studied at a hospitality school in Bellagio on Lake Como. This allowed him a year later in 1954, to serve for many years on the SS Homeric luxury ocean liner (which later became the SS Mariposa) in the Caribbean departing from the USA. There were 50,000 applicants and only 250 offers for the cruise ship, thus he became “Lucky“.

What an eventful job able seaman Lucky had — a lost anchor in the Caribbean, a bomb scare in New York and cyclones in the Bermuda Triangle. He was in Cuba in 1956 during Fidel Castro’s revolution, in a situation where he was forced to flee back to the USA, where he tried to open a restaurant in New York, with little success due to a series of problems. 

After the USA experience he returned to Europe and took service at the best hotels of the time including the Italian Queen’s 18th Century private residence, the Hotel Villa D’Este near Rome, and then landed at the Savoy Hotel in London, where he met his first wife Adelina, originally from Padua, and mother of his children.

His English experience gave him a new impetus to go to Australia where the cost of living was lower, and the climate more appealing since the seasons were different. The references he secured for himself allowed him to be hired at the Hotel Wentworth in Sydney, The Gateway Inn and Top of the State in Brisbane. After two years, in 1975, learned that the building Romeo’s Nightclub was in was available which took him along with a partner and founded Lucky’s Trattoria.  He outfitted a warehouse loft behind and above the restaurant as his home.

Lucky Moriselli in Lucky's TrattoriaLucky Morselli was the driving force behind Lucky’s Trattoria on Ann Street which opened in the 1970’s and, at the time, was one of the few late night dining spots in Brisbane. His Trattoria was decorated with European style paintings done by art students who doubled as staff. It’s tables covered in red and white checkered cloths, with an assortmenrt of mis-matched glassware and crockery on each. Sound of Italian opera swelled in the background.

In Italy being called a  ‘Trattoria‘ usually means second class restaurant, but Lucky often quoted saying his was “simple and comfortable.  In Italy, if a brick is missing, it is replaced with an empty wine bottle and salami & onions are thrown on the ceiling.  This cannot be done in Brisbane because of health regulations, but the ecclectic decor and mis-matched crockeery achieve similar effects” he said.

Lucky’s remained open for 25 years, until 2000 becoming a favourite haunt of all walks of life including hospitality workers and patrons of nearby businesses including the PINK PUSSYCAT, the RED GARTER (later the OUTPOST) and COCKATOO BAR / THE BEAT, Lucky’s was always busy. It became the go-to nightly staple for theatre workers and journalists. Often celebrities such as Danny La Rue, Harris Milstead (Divine), Keith Haring, Helen Morse, George Michael, Mick Jagger, Peter Allen, Jack Thomson and Mike Higgens could be spotted dining. Sooner or later everyone ended up at Lucky’s where everyone could be treated incognito and on equal terms. The food was delicious with specialty dishes from all over Italy, reasonably priced, and served in abundant portions.

Garlic Bread 🍕Garlic Prawns 🇮🇹 Escargot in Garlic 🍕Scallopini Funghi 🇮🇹 Pumpkin Gnocchi 🍕Deep Fried Artichoke 🇮🇹 Tortellini Moderna

And when you went to settle the tab, Lucky would be at the register, wearing his trademark suspenders, and would offer you a complementary Marsala….served in a plastic egg cup.

Lucky took pride in his restaurant. He also enjoyed the increased business from THE BEAT as we got busier. Over time, Lucky, a devout Catholic, became gay friendly, and his restaurant stayed open until the wee hours of the morning, adjusting his closure time based on how busy we were by the hour.

Overnight, Lucky’s Trattoria became the gay and drag queen restaurant of choice, Luciano loved the attention. Lucky’s son Luke (chef) became a regular at The Beat and seeing his own franchise opportunity put in menus, used his Lucky’s Trattoria kitchen to cook, and supplied sample dishes to put in the display cabinet. When someone ordered, one of our staff would run out our backdoor, down the back alley of Lucky Lane to Lucky’s kitchen and bring back the dish to serve.

Lucky was often seen screaming in an animated Italian way at the anti-gay bashers at the parking lot across the street from his restaurant to anyone he deemed homophobic at the time.

I coined “Lucky Lane” as a triple entendre based on adjacent Lucky’s Trattoria, the “L” shape of the delivery lane, and the outdoor sex that would occur in our dark, shattered beer bottle, used syringe and potholed rocky service alley – i.e. getting ‘Lucky’. Much to Lucky’s amusement, I had my resident designer paint a faux “Lucky Lane” street sign on the building wall at the entrance off Ann Street.

Three decades later, Brisbane city installed a permanent sign.

A funeral mass was held for him on January 18, 2024 at the Mary, Queen of Peace Cathrolc Church in Woody Point.

Lucky Morselli

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