The pasta bar sold spaghetti and salami sandwiches, sausages and crostoli.

“We sold nearly 500 plates of spaghetti,” Melchior said.

“It was a bit of a fundraiser for the Club to help keep it going,” De Nardi added.

The Lismore Italo-Australian Sports and Recreation Club is a social club with an interesting history.

Founded in about 1965 by Ignazio Pagotto and Giacomo Conte, the club was a gathering place for Italians in the Northern Rivers, with the original scope of playing bocce.

“That’s all in the Club history on the wall down there,” Melchior said.

“I was only a baby then!

“A few Italians put money in and bought the site, which was an old sawmill.

“In the early years, all workers were voluntary and bocce was played every Sunday.”

Just as it is today, food was integral to the club’s work in those early years, with long-time committee member De Nardi mentioning that punters used to eat the still-popular meals of spaghetti with chicken, or spaghetti with veal – a classic Italo-Australian combo special.

Back in the day, the club also used to host a variety of riotous (and possibly “now illegal”) games such as greasy pole (albero della cuccagna) and chase-the-pig, as well as mock weddings like a “comedy skit”.

Nowadays, the venue is a bright and airy club, with facilities to cater for bocce, martial arts, dance and indoor bowls, while also supporting aspects of summer and winter sports such as football and Milo Cricket.

But, despite its ongoing popularity, De Nardi said that “like most [Italian] clubs, a lot of the older Italians have died ...” and the future of the club is uncertain.

Today the club is largely volunteer-run, with the Friendship Festival pasta bar committee made up of volunteers.

Chefs and volunteers still dish up a smorgasbord dinner at the club three times a week, serving soup, antipasti, roasts, baked vegetables and fish and chips to Lismore locals, who appreciate the taste of Italy in northern NSW.