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Toppi family could be toppled by lawsuit

Sydney mother and daughter restaurateurs Giovanna and Paola Toppi are in a $1.5 million legal battle after allegedly failing to repay a loan.

According to documents lodged with the NSW Supreme Court, the Toppi family, which was behind the famed Machiavelli’s, could lose the premises where their Italian eatery Bar M is located at Rushcutters Bay.

Machiavelli’s was one of Sydney’s power restaurants, hosting lunches for some of the country’s most powerful politicians and millionaires.

The landlord of the Bar M site is WFR Motors, where Roosters chairman Nick Politis is a director. Bar M’s rent to WFM Motors was a huge, if not unsustainable, $287,610 a year.

WFR Motors loaned Bar M Pty Lt $1.1 million in October 2018, so Paola Toppi could settle another court case to the value of $837,000 which was owed due to a building fit out.

Paola’s mother Giovanna, 84, is also being sued as she was guarantor of the loan, but has denied any liability claiming she had put her trust in her daughter and did not read the documents Paola asked her to sign.

“Paola is Giovanna‘s daughter, who Giovanna trusted ... not to ask Giovanna to sign documents that ­exposed Giovanna to financial risk and harm without ­informing Giovanna that the documents if signed would have that effect,” stated the defence.

WFM is claiming a total of $1.135 million. The amount includes interest, vacant possession of Bar M and the proceeds of the sale of 95 Macleay St, Potts Point, where Giovanna’s famous La Strada restaurant hosted stars such as Mick Jagger, Elton John and Shirley Bassey during the 1980s.

La Strada has been closed for some time and the property sold, however WFM Motors has a caveat over the premises and claims that Giovanna put the property up as security for the loan.

The case is yet to be determined by a judge and the matter was adjourned last Friday by Justice Rowan Darke to 4 June 2021 for a directions hearing.


Irit Jackson, 5th May 2021