Sunday 21 January 2018

Paolo: serenaded by Chris de Burgh and Harry Crosbie as he passed on

Friends and food lovers were heartbroken at the news of Paolo Tullio's death, says Niamh Horan

Friends indeed: Much-loved food writer, Paolo Tullio, right, who passed away on Friday after a long illness with life-long friends Paul McGuinness, left, and Michael Colgan
Friends indeed: Much-loved food writer, Paolo Tullio, right, who passed away on Friday after a long illness with life-long friends Paul McGuinness, left, and Michael Colgan
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Two of Paolo Tullio's best friends, Harry Crosbie and singer-songwriter Chris de Burgh, serenaded the beloved food critic with a Beatles song as he gently passed away on Friday.

Yesterday, as tributes continued to pour in for 65-year-old Irish Independent food critic Paolo, Harry Crosbie remembered his great friend.

"The standing joke was that Paolo was our favourite 'eye-talian'. I had a constant running battle with him as to who knew the most pointless trivia. He was immensely erudite and/or a bullshitter, and I could never beat him.

"He was a great guitar player, we had a medley together for parties - from Val Doonican to an Irish weepy, Come-All-Ye.

"Me and Chris de Burgh sang a Beatles song together at his bedside just before he died. He would have thought that was funny. We know he heard us because he squeezed Chris's hand.

"He was a man of culture, who had a huge store of corny jokes. I can steal all his material. Arrivederci…"

The food writer died after a long illness.Wicklow-based Paolo, who was also a Michelin star-winning chef, studied English and philosophy at Trinity and met some of his closest friends there, including future U2 manager Paul McGuinness, and Gate director Michael Colgan.

Speaking about his passing, close friend and presenter Sean Moncrieff said "it was hard to put into words" how he was feeling.

Reflecting on Paolo's time with him on the radio, he said: "Ostensibly, it was about food. We'd start yacking before the red light would go on, and we'd just keep talking through the ad break, and we might get to a food question at 25 past.

He added: "You could just talk to him for hours. He would draw you in and you'd always feel better for having spent time with him, and it's desperately sad."

He said Paolo defied the idea of the critic as a negative voice: "If he thought a restaurant wasn't that good, he wouldn't review it. He wouldn't waste his time writing something negative or nasty. He'd rather go to restaurants that were good or had potential, and encourage them to get better."

His agent, Noel Kelly, also paid tribute: "I am missing a great friend, full of kindness and with only positive things to say of others."

Author Marian Keyes offered her condolences to his family, while TV chef Donal Skehan said he was "a true gentleman, always encouraging".

One man took to his social-media account to describe how he had once met Tullio and told him he wanted to build a pizza oven. He said: "He spent about an hour drawing plans on napkins."

Fellow chef Kevin Dundon also paid his respects to his "fantastic friend".

"He was a great friend of mine," he said. "I ate many a dinner with him and he was a great chef, a great food critic, a great storyteller and a great friend. He will be sadly missed, I just can't believe he is gone."

The popular restaurant critic had a number of small roles in films, playing an Italian ice-cream seller in pal Neil Jordan's film The Butcher Boy, and in films by John Boorman, such as The Tailor of Panama and The Tiger's Tail.

'He was the kindest, funniest, cleverest man I've ever known'

Michael Colgan

'He was my best friend for 45 years and in that time there was never a cross word, never a criticism, not even the possibility of a falling out.

"He made me feel special, but he was the one who was special.

"We met in the late 1960s when Trinity and Trinity Players were enjoying a rich harvest. So much young and ripe talent: Susan Fitzgerald, Paul McGuinness, Chris de Burgh, James Morris and Kathy Gilfillan and the most talented, the most versatile and yet the most modest of us all, Paolo Tullio.

"He was the heart of our group. The go-to man.

"When you were with Paolo, you were King of the College. And then it continued. Glorious years of rare friendship and privilege.

"The funniest, the cleverest, kindest man I have ever known. I have no idea what I will do without him."

Sunday Independent

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