Carla Page and her three daughters, Juliana, Victoria and Annabella La Pegna have been regular clients here at Dilettante for some time now. Collectively, they have been a longstanding part of the local Claremont community too; the girls' father is the restauranteur behind Bellissimo - an iconic institution of Italian cuisine right here on Bayview terrace.
Ahead of Sister's day this Sunday the 6th of August, Diana sits down to chat family, food and fashion with the three sisters and their mother.
As someone who comes also from an Italian family, but one consisting of older brothers only, can you tell me what it feels like growing up with two older sisters?
VICTORIA: It's a friendship with no filter, we are all incredibly close but we fight ... a lot. There’s no love lost though, and all is always forgiven after about five minutes of screaming and yelling, which very well could be the Italian in us coming out.
I’ve always felt very special and safe growing up, knowing I have such incredible people looking after me no matter what.
Juliana can you describe how the relationship between sisters is different to say that of a girlfriend?
JULIANA: A sister is different because as Victoria said, there really is no filter. A sister is always brutally honest with you, even when you might not necessarily want to hear it, but almost always definitely need to. They can always sense when something is up or if you need a shoulder to cry on. It is just nice having a sister (or in my case two) looking out for me as someone who will always love me unconditionally, even when I mess up.
As the eldest of the three sisters, what is your relationship like with the younger two, do you think it differs being the eldest?
ANNABELLA: Because we are so close in age, I haven’t so much tried to be a role model, but more of a friend and confidant. I really admire both my sisters, for different reasons. Juliana for her intelligence and an unwavering ability to always be an amazing friend, and Victoria, for always being strong-willed and her incredible breakfast making abilities! I would like to think I have passed certain things onto them too and set a good example.
So Carla, what are some of the challenges in bringing up a household full of sisters?
CARLA: I had three babies in three years! The challenges were both physical and emotional. I was mostly on my own with the girls so I took the responsibility of keeping them happy, healthy and safe seriously. I did have wonderful support from my mother and close family friends who are truly special to me. As I am quite a “hands on” sort of person I decided to sell my Beauty Salon of 20 years so the girls could have the nurturing environment I think they needed to ultimately prepare them for their future. Their education was very high on my priority list and thankfully their father felt the same way, our primary concern was to be able to put them in a position to make informed choices in all aspects of their lives.
What do you enjoy most about bringing up girls?
C: I have an older and younger brother so I feel quite blessed to have had all girls. I am an idealist, so I employed a ‘caring is sharing’ philosophy at every stage of their upbringing to promote fairness. I wanted the girls to stay close and connected at all times as they really are the sisters I never had, and I will never stop telling them how lucky they and I are for it.
We all shared a love for dressing up, hair, makeup and dancing together - the musical sing-a-longs we would have to George Michael and Pino Daniele in the car and at home really were legendary! I love being able to share my love and pursuit of excellence with them and just being there to see where it takes them.
We are all very food focused too, so family dinners are an essential part of our routine.
The family is bigger than ever now with step-siblings and the boyfriends – which makes for all the more reasons and opportunities to get together so it just keeps getting better!
Annabella can you recall a time growing up when you and your sisters got up to mischief all together?
A: Our stepfather took it upon himself to teach us the art of practical jokes. I remember at least one occasion gluing coins to the footpath outside of the old Belissimo, we would sit and chuckle at the bakery (the site where Dilettante currently sits) as people would attempt to pry them away from the concrete. He really did instil in us the value in not taking ourselves too seriously and just how to have a good laugh!
Juliana I've noticed with sisters there can be quite a bit of jealousy when growing up. Is that something you and your sisters can relate to?
J: I remember when we were young I would get jealous of my sisters for different reasons, Annabella because she's very friendly and easy to get along with, and Victoria for her sense of humour and passionate attitude. Both my sisters were popular at school whereas I was somewhat reserved and quieter. I have learned to accept that the things that make us different also make us individual. I'm glad we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. I try to emulate my sisters for all their positive traits, and I think that those initial feelings of envy have actually encouraged me want to come out of my shell in a lot of ways.
Are there any rules when it comes to borrowing clothes from each other?
V: Just one; As long as it comes back with no marks on it, then you can borrow whatever you like!
Annabella is it safe to say that you seem to have developed a similar passion to your mother when it comes to beauty and cosmetics? As the eldest of three girls, do you have any beauty secrets or tricks that you have passed onto your sisters?
A: I have definitely taken inspiration from Mum in the beauty world, she always taught me less is more, and that taking good care of your skin is the key. I think the most important beauty tip I passed onto the girls is to not be lazy; look after your skin well and never use make-up wipes - They’re notorious for drying your skin out and contributing to break outs.
Victoria your father is an Italian icon of Claremont, having run Bellissimo Restaurant for as long as I can remember. Was it his influence that drew you to become a chef?
V: I think the love of food comes from being Italian, but when you have someone with such talent, he became a role model of mine - for sure. The opportunity for me to become a chef actually came up when Dad was desperate for someone in the kitchen a few years back, so he said, "If you really want to be a chef, why don't you try?".
I think he was trying to talk me out of it... but I gave it a go and here I am 3 years later, about to qualify with one of the best restaurants in Perth - Red Cabbage Food + Wine.
What's your foolproof method for an excellent pasta?
V: When making a quick pasta the key is always fresh ingredients. If making a ragù, I cook it for a few hours and finish it with lots of extra virgin olive oil, basil and salt. People always forget to season - salt is probably the most important ingredient!
Juliana you are currently completing your honours degree in Media and Communications, what drew you to this field and what do you see yourself doing after graduating?
J: Anyone who knows me will know that my first great love was television, particularly "The Simpsons", so an interest in popular culture definitely drew me to media studies.
My honours thesis is a more modern look at subcultures in a Perth context. My aim has always been trying to understand the unique culture we have here and to be part of the next generation who are actively building upon that. Perth has a tendency to be seen as a sort of a boring void, inferior to the eastern states, which is just not the case. I want to be part of the cultural renaissance that is happening and work towards shifting those misconceptions.
And how would you describe your personal style?
J: My style is a mixture of things stolen for Mum's wardrobe (always lovingly of course!), and a few key statement pieces. I collect flare patches so I have jackets and backpacks full of them. I tend to go for things no one else has, pieces that are unique, so the patches give me some space to be creative and individual. Oh, and some Doc Marten boots of course!
So, Annabella you own a few Issey Miyake pieces, what is it that draws you to this brand?
A: (laughing) It’s true, I’m a little bit obsessed! I love the fact I can wear it all so casually as well as dress them up a bit. I like how versatile all the pieces are, and often wear all my items together; it’s definitely something a little bit more fun and contemporary! Plus, they’re super easy to maintain and I don’t have to dry clean them. I especially love the way the pieces are structured, yet still organic and flattering on my body shape. I take my newest acquisition everywhere with me, it’s the best little backpack!
Victoria have you inherited your mothers love of handbags? What influence have your sisters had on your personal style?
V: I do have a fair few handbags, at least one for every occasion, but nothing that comes close to Mum's collection that's for sure! I think my recent Issey Miyake purchase was clear that we have the same taste in bags, as when I brought it home she told me that she had been eyeing it off a few weeks before me! My style is pretty basic but very easy to wear and comfortable, I think that comes from having to wear chef clothes most of the time. Annabella has taught me how to layer different items, as well as the importance of stripes in my wardrobe. Juliana's style is so fun, I usually ask her if something "looks weird" before I wear it because I really value her opinion. When growing up, I always used to think that I was clueless with when it came to putting together an outfit and that it was the other two who had really taken after Mum in that way.
Having only a year gap between each of you, have you ever fought over a boy?
J: We have definitely fought over one boy, our dear cat Adonis! I remember as kids arguing over who would hold him first after coming home from school. Seems very silly now but after 17 years he is definitely a beloved fixture in our family.
Carla you such have an amazing wardrobe, Can you tell us about your personal style and how it has developed over time?
C: (Laughing) I have been a collector most of my life and nothing compares to the feeling of finding that perfect piece of jewellery, clothing, shoes – it's like a treasure hunt! I discovered the ‘Model Room’ in Ahern’s in the late 70’s – a treasure trove of imported delights, from Dior and Missoni and everything in between. The Australian fashion industry definitely wasn’t what it is today. We have more choice than ever before. We are luckier than we think in Perth with so many great boutiques hand-picking some of the very best international collections. I am still obsessed with finding that perfect bag or jacket, however I am much more relaxed about dressing now. More casual I guess, although I have always tried to keep things understated and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I tend to look for styles with longevity, and enjoy bringing out older pieces that remain relevant today.
Girls, we hear you’re lucky enough to borrow some beautiful pieces of clothing from your mum, what are your favourites?
J: Mum’s love of sheer fabrics is definitely something that has been carried on down to me. At the moment I'm loving this Valentino number.
A: Some of my best pieces have been passed down to me from Mum, I’m constantly getting asked where things are from and the answer is always, ‘it’s Mum's.’ We share very a similar taste in regards to style, investing in classic pieces that aren’t necessarily on ‘trend,’ but are pieces that can be worn year after year. Mum taught me that true style is timeless. At the moment, I’m loving this sheer little velvet number, I’ve been layering underneath everything!
V: Her bags, definitely.
Carla, Victoria, Juliana and Annabella wear Issey Miyake Pleats Please, Ann Demeulemeester, Acne Studios, Laura B and Rosa Maria jewellery throughout, whilst also sharing some of Victoria’s own recipe for Spaghetti con Polpette (spaghetti with meatballs).
Prepare some for a sister this weekend:
Spaghetti con polpette
Salsa al Pomodoro
40ml olive oil
1 carrot, chopped in half
1 onion, chopped in quarters
1/2 celery stick
4 garlic cloves
1 can of chopped tinned tomato
1 x bottle of tomato passata
1 bunch of basil
Pinch of sugar (optional)
A packet of your spaghetti preference – in my case, it’s a good quality Bucatini!
1. Sweat the carrot, onion, celery and garlic until it starts to soften and becomes very fragrant.
2. Add the tinned tomato and passata along with 100ml of water.
3. Simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Finish with pinch of sugar if sauce is too acidic. 5. Pick out carrot, onion and celery. Top with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, basil and Parmesan to taste.
500g good quality beef mince
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
50g grated Parmesan
80g crustless white Italian bread soaked in 100ml milk until soft
Salt and pepper
1. Combine everything into a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Roll into small, golfball sized pieces of polpette.
3. Fry until outside is golden brown, add to the pasta sauce and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
4. Cook Pasta according to packet instructions and serve.