Tuesday 25 October 2016

Sophie Gorman on Paolo Tullio: He loved people, and people loved him: he'll be missed by all

Sophie Gorman

Published 06/06/2015 | 02:30

Recently, Paolo built his own smokehouse and pizza oven in his garden– mostly by hand
Recently, Paolo built his own smokehouse and pizza oven in his garden– mostly by hand

Paolo Tullio was a father, a chef, a restaurateur, a newspaper food critic, a television fixture, a radio personality, a film star (in a manner of speaking), a recording studio owner, an interpreter, a cattle agent. Most of all, though, Paolo Tullio was a lover of people. And people loved him back.

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Paolo kept friends when all around him were losing them. His close-knit circle of friends was fiercely loyal to him, as he was to them. Key friendships were made in Dublin of the late sixties, when Paolo arrived from England to officially study English and Philosophy in Trinity College, but really to study life and living and enjoying all that the sixties hippy era had to offer.

This was when Paolo forged lasting friendships united by a shared sense of mischief, when Paolo met his remarkable gang of friends that remain to this day: Michael Colgan, Paul McGuinness, Harry Crosbie.

Paolo may have been somewhat compact in physical stature, but he was a giant of a gentleman. He was exceptionally good company, very witty, very giving of himself. He was a wonderful raconteur, stories that ranged wide and far, often with a self-deprecating twist. And, most importantly of all, he listened.

Paolo was a most capable man who would attempt many impossible projects and always see them through. He had his own restaurant in a tiny Wicklow town of Annamoe, Armstrong's Barn, and it went on to win a Michelin star. When the restaurant closed, he made it into a recording studio and Zig and Zag recorded there. He wrote novels that took him many years to finish but he did not give up. He would never give up. Recently, he built his own smokehouse and pizza oven in his garden. Mostly by hand.

He was such a natural host, Paolo made you feel instantly at home, even when you were in somebody else's home. It was very hard to end a night with Paolo, he always wanting to give you more, another laugh, another gossip, even another song, for Paolo played the guitar, beautiful classical sentimental Italian tunes he would sing along to, and the occasional eighties rock ballad.

Paolo betrayed his Italian origins with his passionate nature, his inclination for indulgence. He was extraordinarily generous. He would invite you to the wonderful house he built in Wicklow and provide a feast, there would always be something more for you to taste, a special wine that must be drunk tonight. He would insist on driving you to review a restaurant in some remote location, regardless of the long detour to pick you up. He would introduce you to his friends, he would make sure you were included. He would tell the most happy stories of his little village in Italy and the wine festival he returned to every August.

He never faded in his delight at visiting new restaurants to review for the Irish Independent's 'Weekend' magazine, somehow never wearying, his sociability enduring. The pleasure he received from his weekly radio slot, the conversational nature of it suiting his meandering mind, which would happily leap from discussing what is the best Bordeaux to serve at a wedding to how to ferment cabbages.

He was a sensitive and considerate friend with many singular qualities.

But possibly his most remarkable quality was how he could make everyone around him a better version of themselves. In Paolo's company, a curmudgeonly recluse would be transformed into an engaging and warm conversationalist. He made solipsists convivial. An uncouth boor would find himself pulling out a chair for a lady at a party in Paolo's. And this was not because of anything Paolo said, he simply had a presence which made you somehow worthier.

To describe Paolo as beloved is an understatement. To be a friend of his was an extraordinary privilege, and Paolo had a long standing and extensive group of friends.

But Paolo was also much loved by people who watched him on television or listened to him on radio. Paolo will be missed by all.

Our thoughts and sympathies are with his family and his gang.

Irish Independent

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