King and Godfree: “Everything we like about Italy in the one place”
King and Godfree director Luca Sbardella always looks back fondly on the times he spent going back to Italy with his family, enjoying and revelling in experiences that could not be found in Australia.
Spurred on by these memories, Mr Sbardella and his family decided that if they could not find what they loved most about Italy in Australia, then it was up to them to create it.
Turning the family-owned business of King and Godfree into an “Italian hub” has been no small feat, but it is one that has been done exceptionally well.
“The concept of this whole building was to try and bring everything we liked about Italy, and put it into one place,” Mr Sbardella said.
The Lygon and Faraday streets corner building first started out as a grocery store in 1871, before being bought by Edward King and George Godfree in 1884.
It was then in 1952, when Mr Sbardella’s grandfather purchased the business, that it became a family legacy and started to cement itself as a renowned specialty grocer, selling the highest quality of imported Italian goods – including everything from prosciutto to mozzarella, dips, olive oil, wine, tomatoes and canned tuna.
After 150 years, King and Godfree has remained loyal to its roots of being a grocer and delicatessen while also expanding the building’s facilities.
Now included under the banner of King and Godfree are Johnny’s Green Room rooftop bar, Agostino restaurant and cellar, and Pidapipo gelato shop among others.
“We decided to split the whole place up into little venues to recreate the experience of Italy,” Mr Sbardella said.
“We refitted the downstairs space, where we have an Italian cellar that my grandfather built in the ‘70s to replicate an Italian wine centre and have made it into a function space and bar where we have jazz nights and events like that.”
“My cousin Lisa [Valmorbida] then went to Italy to learn how to make gelato and came back to open up Pidapipo, and we also have an espresso bar with stand-up, Italian-style espresso with pastries and classic Italian foods.”
Helping to make King and Godfree a venue that continues to offer up an elite Italian experience is executive chef Matteo Toffano, who described the venue as an “Italian hub with a little bit for everyone”.
“The rooftop has a beautiful balcony with a great view, and then downstairs you can come to do some shopping, have a coffee, and a light lunch or dinner, or you can have an elevated experience at Agostino,” Mr Toffano said.
In addition to being proud of the space that has been created, both Mr Toffano and Mr Sbardella are equally as proud to be situated on Lygon St, or “Little Italy” as many would describe it.
“Lygon St has always been the place to go if you want some Italian produce and restaurants, but it is also a street where you will find that same sense of community that can be found in a little town in Italy,” Mr Toffano said.
“People come here, and they feel like they are in Italy, and that is the best thing about being on Lygon St.”
Helping people to experience Italy without the plane ride has always been the vision of King and Godfree, and it has recently taken this one step further with a new book, King and Godfree: The Corner Grocer.
Now available to purchase in store and online, the book is enriched with stories of Lygon St’s history and shares details on how a little Italian grocer became the heart of the community.
Filled with more than 432 creatively crafted pages and 100 Italian recipes, The Corner Grocer is an essential guide for all wanting to take a little bit of Italy home with them. •
To learn more or get your copy of King and Godfree: The Corner Grocer visit: kingandgodfree.com