Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Triaca, Camillo (Cam) (1887–1972)

by W. S. Benwell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Camillo (Cam) Triaca (1887-1972), restaurateur and sculptor, was born on 16 April 1887 at Lucignana, Tuscany, Italy, son of Gesualdo Triaca, shoemaker, and his wife Palmira, née Dinelli. Educated at local schools, Camillo cultivated a natural talent for sculpture which he put to commercial use by making religious objects and figurines. His business prospered and he took his work to sell in the United States of America. Coming to Melbourne in 1909, he practised his craft at Richmond, but went back in 1914 to serve with the Italian Army. Having married Brasilina Damiani, Triaca returned alone to Melbourne in 1923; three years later his wife and family joined him. He continued his decorative sculpture at his Richmond home and then at Fitzroy. He was naturalized in 1928.

In 1925 Triaca and Rinaldo Massoni had taken a lease of an Australian wineshop, the Café Bella, at 206 Exhibition Street, Melbourne; when it was sold, the two parted. In 1930 Triaca leased the same property: the wine bar operated at street level; upstairs he opened a restaurant, the Café Latin, which would be known simply as 'the Latin'.

With its plain, narrow room providing about fifty covers, the restaurant soon proved popular. The cuisine was 'casalinga' (Italian home-style) of excellent quality. Initially patronized by theatre people, artists, writers and musicians, 'the Latin' came to attract lawyers, doctors, publishers and certain clergymen. A Bohemian character was established early, and remained.

Known as 'Cam' to his regulars, Triaca had considerable presence: 6 ft 3 ins (191 cm) tall, strongly built, well tonsured and with a trim moustache, he was quietly spoken, dignified, gentle and considerate. By habit, he sat at his own small table at the top of the stairs, the better to make greeting or farewell, the easier to see and take pleasure in his clientele. Brasilina did not often appear in the restaurant, but she made excellent cheese which was served at the tables. There was a good wine list, especially in the later years.

In 1955 the restaurant freehold was purchased by Mario Vigano, 'the Latin' closed and Triaca retired. His son David carried the restaurant's name to 55 Lonsdale Street and opened the 'new' Latin. With a similar clientele, his establishment flourished. When David retired in 1984 the business passed to other hands. The site of the 'old' Latin is now overbuilt. Camillo died at Fitzroy on 2 July 1972 and was buried with Catholic rites in Boroondara cemetery. His wife, two sons and daughter survived him. Two portraits are held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • Age (Melbourne), 3 July 1972
  • Australian, 5 July 1972
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 16, 18 July 1966, 3 July 1972, 31 Jan 1984
  • naturalisation papers (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

W. S. Benwell, 'Triaca, Camillo (Cam) (1887–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/triaca-camillo-cam-8851/text15535, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 29 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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