Melbourne’s specialty food and wine retailer Enoteca Sileno is closing down after 70 years

Enoteca Sileno, a specialty Italian food and wine business that has been a Melbourne staple for nearly 70 years, has announced it’s shutting up shop.

The business was established by Italian immigrant Luigi “Gino” Di Santo and has been managed for the past 40 years by his daughter Rosemary Portelli and her husband John.

Their final day of trading is on June 1.

The Portellis decided to hang up the boots as they both approach their 70th birthdays. The closure marks the end of an era for the store that has been a cornerstone of quality Italian food in Australia.

In a joint statement, the Portellis described their journey as an “epic culinary adventure” that evolved from modest beginnings into a nationwide celebration of Italian culinary arts.

“What started from humble origins has grown to a true nationwide gastronomic passion, and we have loved showcasing some incredible artisans of the Italian food scene here in Australia,” the Portellis said.

Enoteca Sileno’s products will continue to be available through their online store until the remaining stock is sold.

The store has been crucial in importing Italian wines, spirits, and various food items, and had built strong relationships with Italian suppliers.

Enoteca Sileno has been particularly popular among Melburnians during festive seasons, offering specialised items like panforte, rare Italian chocolates, and panettone with unique fillings.

Luigi Di Santo originally started by importing goods and equipment like gelati makers and espresso machines from Italy in the 1950s, before opening the retail store in 1982.

It was the first place in Australia that specialised in Italian wines, and the first business, as far as the family knows, to use the word Enoteca, which means wine shop or — colloquially in Italy — wine bar or casual restaurant where wine is the main attraction.

The store moved to its present and final location on Lygon Street in 2004.

The original Amess St address of was put on the market in 2019 after more than half a century of family ownership.

Despite closing the retail store, the Portellis aren’t leaving the business world entirely; they plan to continue working in product import and distribution with their son Daniel Portelli and will concentrate on expanding their wine storage business called Vintage View.

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