Former home of Melbourne’s first pizzeria, Toto’s Pizza House, for lease

99-101 Lygon St, Carlton - for herald sun real estate

The home of Melbourne’s first pizza restaurant at 99-101 Lygon St, Carlton, is up for lease after 49 years being run as Toto’s Pizza House.

A pizza Melbourne’s history is up for grabs, with a new tenant being sought to take up a slice of the former Toto’s pizzeria on Lygon St.

The Carlton icon was the city’s first pizza restaurant when it opened in 1961 and has served the likes of Hollywood star Nicolas Cage, AFL champ Warwick Capper and former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

In 2007, Toto’s Pizza House became the second restaurant added to the International Pizza Hall of Fame, after Lombardi’s in New York, recognising its incredible run spinning dough and its role in connecting Melbourne with the food that is now a staple.

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But the Covid-19 pandemic and Melbourne’s protracted lockdowns forced its closure late in 2020.

In September that year, former operator Zain Mazloum, who started work at the restaurant aged 11 and took it over from his father in February, was forced to close the business, though has indicated while the restaurant’s future at Lygon St is over he hopes to revive it elsewhere.

Mr Mazloum’s father, Sami, bought the business from founder Salvatore Della Bruna who established it in 1961 bringing the concept of a pizzeria to Melbourne from where he grew up in Naples, Italy.

While Toto’s is one of the nation’s first pizza restaurants, a South Australian pizza parlour named Lucia’s is believed to have been the nation’s first, having opened its doors four years before the Melbourne store.

Toto’s Pizza House in happier days.

Original owner Salvatore Della Bruna (left) and Franco Fera making pizzas in the 1970s.

Earlier this year, the 99-101 Lygon St restaurant sold for what industry sources have indicated was more than $1.9m to the Monash Commercial Property Investment Fund.

The group is managed by Mark Wizel and Lewis Tong.

Mr Wizel said they were attracted to the property’s “deep history as an iconic Melbourne pizzeria” when they purchased it.

“It would be fantastic to see the property return to its glory days of serving pizza, however, to date most of the inquiry has come from other types of food operators,” Mr Wizel said.

“But in the coming months I think we will see this part of Lygon St re-emerge to its ‘city edge’ best, with large numbers of international students expected to return to study at nearby RMIT and Melbourne University campuses.”

99-101 Lygon St, Carlton - for herald sun real estate

The property has all the toppings needed for a new pizza store to move in.

Warwick Capper with Zain Mazloum at Toto’s Pizza House.

Jones Real Estate managing director Paul Jones is handling leasing inquiries and said quite a few people had called asking what had happened to Toto’s since the property was listed.

In terms of a future tenant, Mr Jones added that the property had been under one of Melbourne’s longest leases at 49 years — and it was hoped the next business would be there just as long.

“Obviously Covid came and the occupant, along with quite a few others, closed their doors,” he said.

“But professional historians have credited Toto’s with establishing pizza as an Australian fast-food staple.

“We want to get the right party in there so it’s another 49-year tenant. And we really hope it’s a pizza restaurant.”

The restaurant claims to be Australia’s first pizzeria, opening its doors in 1961, but this is disputed with a South Australian vendor opening four years earlier.

99-101 Lygon St, Carlton - for herald sun real estate

The restaurant had been serving diners both in house and with take away offerings.

Whoever does take over might just get one with the lot.

The two-store offering could attract a large pizzeria keen to continue tradition and occupy both sites as Toto’s did and is fully fitted for the purpose, with such a business expected to spend about $150,000 a year in rent.

But Mr Jones isn’t ruling out a chance it will be shared half and half between dual tenants.

He said they would take as long as necessary to find the right business to fill the shops.

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