Luca Baioni: His journey from his small Italian home town to working with Campari and now Adelaide bar owner

Story by Cara Devine. Cara is our Melbourne-based drinks writer. She is the co-owner of Goodwater  in Melbourne and the face and talent behind the cocktailing YouTube channel Behind the Bar. You can email her at

Latteria – 185 Hutt St, Adelaide @latteriabar

The path from bartender to rep or ambassador is a well-trodden one, but for Luca Baioni, his journey didn’t end there. Instead, it has taken him back behind the bar – this time, his own bar, the newly opened Latteria in Adelaide.

Baioni became a well-known part of the Australian hospitality scene as the Campari Brand Ambassador, but his hospitality story started well before, in his native country of Italy. “I must have made my first coffee at around 12 years old, served my first beer at 14 (this was Italy, a different culture and looooong time ago!) while then I started my career almost by accident at 17, getting a job as barback/glassie in an outdoor summer disco club in the town next to my hometown.” Here, he was taken under the wing of some bartenders, including Oscar Quagliarini, “a super creative, ultra-passionate bartender (now also a perfumery Nose) who suggested for me to start studying about bar and cocktails.” Baioni took this on board, reading books, visiting bars, attending bar shows all over Europe, and building a knowledge base, which would see him moving first to a higher-end bar in his hometown and then to Milan to hone his craft. “My attitude has always been of humility, trying to learn from anyone. I still think this is my way to bartend.”

Moving to Australia landed Baioni in Perth, where he moved from bartender at La Cholita to group beverage manager for the whole Lavish Habits group. “I opened a couple of new bars for them while looking after the beverage offer, all cocktail lists (all very different as every venue had its own distinct concept), training all bar teams, and, of course, bartending every night. It was a good ride! And then, I think in 2018, Campari happened.” Initially taking on the Brand Ambassador job for WA/SA, once a spot came up for a VIC/TAS role they expanded the position especially for Baioni, making him synonymous with the bitter red stuff for a huge swathe of the country. “I had a great time with Campari. I learned a lot, and I had the chance to share my passion with so many bartenders around the Country. The corporate world doesn’t exactly suit me too much, but I learned a lot and I had some great experiences,”

One day, in a chat over the phone, we realised that we both had a concept in mind for a bar inspired by Milanese Latterias (the Italian evolution of milk bars). We started talking seriously about it and started looking for a venue. It took over two years, but finally a couple of weeks ago Latteria opened its doors in Adelaide.

Of the ambassador life, Baioni says, “I wouldn’t have been able to be a BA for many companies. Being from Milano, becoming a Brand Ambassador for Campari was something like a childhood dream. What really made it ‘easy’ is the fact that the majority of brands in Campari Group’s portfolio I was confident in representing because they are good quality, so I’d say that believing in the portfolio is paramount. You wouldn’t want to associate yourself, your image or your personal brand to products you don’t believe in or that don’t align with your ethos. Furthermore, my approach to the BA role always wanted to be as bullshit-free as possible. I am who I am, with my style, my thoughts, my issues, my growth and my moments of brilliance here and there. I never wanted to change that. In this industry we sometimes experience the social pressure of being the ‘go-to guy’ or the ‘soul of the party’ or just the guy that drinks more shots than anyone else… I never wanted to be that (even though I’ve had my fair share of drinks), I always tried to be myself and tried to connect with people because of my passion and knowledge, and to spend time with like minded bartenders. And that’s the other thing: most of us just want to be heard at times, and by experience, you learn a lot by listening to people and so many more opportunities open, both personally and professionally.” But, while the role has many perks, he missed being behind the bar.

“I love our craft, I love the bar culture and I wanted to create a space for our guests to enjoy. Also, I am no spring chicken anymore and I felt it was time to build something for myself,” explains Baioni. “In my work trips to Adelaide, I developed a love for the city and the people here and in particular I became good friends with my now business partner Nicola. His approach towards the industry and his people-forward mentality both with staff and guests are very much in line with mine. One day, in a chat over the phone, we realised that we both had a concept in mind for a bar inspired by Milanese Latterias (the Italian evolution of milk bars). We started talking seriously about it and started looking for a venue. It took over two years, but finally, a couple of weeks ago, Latteria opened its doors in Adelaide.”

Joining forces with architectural studio Studio Gram (the team behind Osteria Oggi, Fugazzi and El Primo Sanchez), and Milanese creative agency YoClass!, it is designed to be “a functional space that offers a progressive, joyful experience, open to everyone to enjoy the way that fits their moment most – from a drink and a snack standing at the bar or by the window, to a more conventional dining experience, or for a cocktail and a champagne in our lounge while the dj spins records.” The offering has had similar attention. “Cocktails focused on creative flavours, delivered with an attentive, smart presentation and perhaps a nod to the ‘Italianity’ that inspires the concept, while keeping the offering international.

The culinary ethos at Latteria is anchored in the relaxed, shared dining experiences typical of Italian bars, where gourmet, casual nibbles reign supreme. Inspired by the essence of traditional street fare and the ‘tavola fredda/calda’ concept, our guests are invited to pair their drinks with an assortment of small plate offerings or opt for a few more substantial meal choices. Our goal is to breathe new life into timeless staples while catering to the tastes of today’s food & drinks enthusiasts, all with a steadfast commitment to premium ingredients.” Access to these ingredients is one of the reasons that Baioni chose Adelaide for this venture, as he highlights the amazing produce and wine available in the region.

For Baioni, teamwork is paramount. He explains that roles are assigned according to each partner’s strengths (he is in charge of the beverage and training programmes, of course). “On your own, you can only get that far, but together, some of your business partners have to fill up the gaps that you surely have.” He has applied a similar ethos to hiring. “We hired our team based on personality, more than professional skills. We are pretty proud of the diversity in professional backgrounds and skills we were able to put together in our team. Within the staff, you find experienced bartenders who have worked in some of the best venues in Adelaide, together with a few younger talents, who are very passionate and grateful to be part of this… We are going to deploy a regular training program for our team to give them confidence for when they’re at work, nurture their careers and to eventually help us shape the future of Latteria. We will also run an open training program for the wider industry, to engage with bartenders from other bars and create a space for bartenders to learn, share and grow together.”

With this level of Italian passion, the future looks bright for Baioni and Latteria.