Tributes pour in for the late Sydney restaurateur Beppi Polese

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Tributes are pouring in for one of Australia’s best-known restaurateurs, Beppi Polese, who passed away on Tuesday night, aged 90.

The man credited with introducing Italian food to scores of Australians over five decades, Beppi Polese, has died peacefully aged 90. 

Mr Polese was part of the wave of migrants who settled in Australia when it opened up to migration between the late 1940s and 1960s.

He rose to prominence after opening his Italian restaurant, Beppi’s, in 1956.

Over six decades, the eatery in Sydney's east earned the reputation of being the 'godfather' of Italian restaurants, and Mr Polese was credited as the cupid behind Australia's love affair with Italian food.

                                  

And as the love for the food caught on, the little restaurant became famous, much like its customers.

Mr Polese's son, Marc Polese, remembers many celebrities coming to try his father's food.

"You know, we had Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon,” he said.

“You know, Frank Sinatra ate here, Shirley Bassey, all those old celebrities.

“Politicians, as well, ate here. It was the place to be.

“And it was a real inspiration to me to see that and to see how someone from such humble beginnings, through sheer determination and hard work, could make so much of himself and why he touched so many people."

Scores of people have taken to social media to pay tribute to Mr Polese.

Despite the decades of change in Australia’s culinary landscape, the Polese family's reputation has remained strong.

His son says his father's passion for food has been passed on to his family.

"He lives within us,he said.

“And he lives on within us and within his staff and within his customers."

Journalist David Dale, who co-authored a book on the chef, says it’s hard to find Italian food in Australia that does not link back to Mr Polese in some way.

"The only thing we knew in the 50s was spaghetti bolognaise,” Mr Dale said.

“That was Italian food, right?"

“Beppi started to introduce calamari, mussels, scampi.

“And people initially would look at that, his customers would look, and (say), 'That's bait'," Mr Dale said.

“In Cairns, in Perth, you name it, there would be people doing things that didn't exist until Beppi came along."

Frank Hoffman is one man who has been coming to Beppi's for more than 40 years.

He said he “already booked” for dinner on Wednesday despite the news.

“I rang this morning and said, 'I just wanted to check, I could understand if you're not open.' And they said, 'Oh, no, this is the way it should be,” Mr Hoffman said.

It's said that Beppi Polese greeted every one of his customers personally.

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