Friday, June 8, 2012

A Bongiovanni & Son

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I went to school with a girl called Julie Buongiorno.  Could you get a better name?  Rhythmic, upbeat and happy.  Certainly almost as cheery is the name A. Bongiovanni, or maybe it's just the delighted mood this brand new supermarket has put Seddon residents in.

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Firstly, "supermarket" isn't really the right term.  There's no toilet paper or Spray n' Wipe here - produce store is perhaps a better descriptor.

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Organic fruit and vegies (bummer about the packaging!  At least the bases are recyclable).

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Key-ooooot packs of unique-variety spuds...

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...plus an impressive loose range including Dutch Creams, kipflers and more.  (Love this new trend of supermarkets having something other than just white and red potatoes.  I have even seen Dutch Creams in Coles.)

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Organic beef!  And best of all, not nothing but organic porterhouse and eye fillet with correspondingly eye-watering price tags - there's organic blade and chuck, cheap(er) and perfect for the slow cooker.

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Cheeses galore, many from smaller-scale producers.  Around the corner are cheddars in fetching wax blankets plus fresh bocconcini and mozzarella.  A bummer is that there's no actual deli counter - everything, including hams and olives, are prepacked.

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Like, if they didn't stock khorasan twists, I was totally, like, going to boycott them.  (It's some sort of ancient grain.)

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When Jalna just isn't enough - an incredible variety of small producer yoghurts, including a hard-to-find favourite of mine, Coyo, which is 100% coconut milk yoghurt.  It is...... utterly...... DIVINE.

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Next time I have bad news, I am totally going to rent a rom com from Network Video and buy a bag of flax chips to cry into.  How can bad news be bad when you have flax chips?

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But wait, there's more.  Jock's ice cream!

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Gluten-free pink lamingtons!  (Pink lamingtons - yet another Ms Baklover shameful food secret.)

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Yes!  (Although why not local Alligator Pasta?)

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Yes!

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Yes!

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Persian fairy floss in many flavours!!!  BREATHE......BREATHE!!!

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Now, some things are not cheap (refried beans for $8 can?)...

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...but there are bargains - David Thompson-approved fish sauce (Megachef) plus accompanying premium oyster sauce for a meagre $2.39 a bottle.

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My haul, including Careme all-butter pastry, as approved by Stephanie Alexander; mango Coyo (you MUST try this - so good); and all-natural prawn bisque from Tassie.  You don't want to know how much this cost, though.  I would take a picture of the steam emanating from my wallet, but my camera lens is too fogged up.

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Despite my silly jokes, this is a very exciting, VERY welcome addition to the inner west.  If I'm not careful, it will become:

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(care of the wonderful Seddon Wine Store, conveniently located opposite).

A. Bongiovanni & Son (Facebook)
176-178 Victoria Street, Seddon
Phone:  9689 8669
Hours:  Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 8am-5pm, Sun 10am-4pm


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64 comments:

  1. I see I read this half an hour too late or I'd pop down already! Looks wonderful.

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  2. Wow! Look interesting! Will definitely check it out.

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  3. I'm a bit concerned A. Bongiovanni are attempting to cover the ground a number of smaller producers have in the strip of Victoria Charles - Florist, Pompello, Sourdough Kitchen - in a one-stop-shop option. I hope this is able to coexist with all of the surrounding stores without any losing ground. That said, they have a great range of produce. Not overly keen on the pre-packages dominance and the shinier than shiny fruit and veg. A bit Truman show for me. Major improvement on the Furniture store.

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    1. Hi anon, have a look at the Footscray Food Blog Facebook page (no need to sign up for the evil empire, ahem, Facebook if you're not sucked into that particular vortex already) - http://www.facebook.com/footscrayfoodblog - there are a few people expressing the same concerns under the Bongiovanni post. Basically I think the people who are going to shop at Bongiovanni are people who value local as well as seasonal and organic. They value a human connection and likely already have strong relationships with the existing Seddon traders. I think very few of those people would turn their back on Pompello and Sourdough Kitchen just to get everything in one shop at Bongiovanni.

      I'm not a Seddon local but I know if I ever find myself in Bongiovanni and need bread in addition to my basket of goodies, I'll walk the extra 10 metres to get it from Alex at Sourdough Kitchen. I definitely hear the issues with the pre-packed fruit and veg (although it's only the organic that's prepacked, not the conventional). Nevertheless I'm so, so excited to have so much available in walking distance that seemed a pipe dream two days ago.

      I wrote about Seddon Wine Store recently and how, despite being the relative newcomer, it has flourished over the other two bottle shops, despite the one opposite being a super-dooper discount one. Seddon definitely values personality and service over convenience and price, so I think Sourdough Kitchen and Pompello shouldn't be overly concerned about their customer base deserting them.

      Now, if we could just get a specialist organic butcher, I could die happy.

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    2. James In FootscrayJune 9, 2012 at 7:21 AM

      Bongiovanni might actually be good for Pompello and Sourdough because it helps makes Seddon a really special food destination. I hope so anyway.

      I think Bongiovanni is quite magical!

      Yes, some hair-raising prices (I love the Mother's Ruin gag Lauren) but they had some cheap basics like Italian tinned tomatoes for 50 cents and passata for a dollar.

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    3. James, that is a great point. In fact, a friend who lives in the northern suburbs said to me last night on Facebook, "Is there one near me?" I said no, you'll have to come to Seddon to check it out. The other traders might get visitors from other suburbs who would not have otherwise set foot in Seddon.

      Magical it is indeed and yes, there were definitely some good steals like the tinned tommies. Apparently today there's a free sausage sizzle too!

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  4. I have to try the Coyo, 100% coconut milk yoghurt, O.M.G

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    1. It is soooooo good. Bongiovanni have Coyo coconut milk icecream too! www.coyo.com.au

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  5. This place looks great! Love all the varieties of potatoes!

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    1. Jac, Kenny of Consider the Sauce also took a great pic of their huge variety of beans - fresh borlotti, big ones like broad beans, yellow wax beans...

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    2. Yes I saw that as well - definitely need to visit soon!

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    3. ...and if you like unusual apple varieties too, be sure to drop into Pompello just down the road - they stock Jazz apples which taste like strawberry juice.

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  6. Looks like a foodie's paradise. For me, this is the sort of place I'd go for special stuff, not an everyday shop, and I think it'll draw people that way. As a Seddon local I'll continue getting my fruit and veg from Pompello, mainly because Mark and the crew have become part of our weekend ritual, and that sense of community is something really special. But I wouldn't be adverse to getting fruit from this place if they're open on a Sunday and I need something... There's room for everyone I reckon.
    Erin

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    1. Well said Erin - I agree, I think there's room for everyone. I think it will definitely draw people over who wouldn't have otherwise travelled to Seddon - see the two comments below where people made special trips to Bongiovanni and stopped in at other Seddon stores too.

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  7. This post motivated me to travel from altona on a rainy day and I made purchases at sk and pomelo while I was there so think it's a good thing!

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    1. Yep, I agree. I also don't live in Seddon but I think Bongiovanni will see me travelling there a lot more often, and I'm sure I'll make more purchases from the surrounding stores as a result. Hope your trip on this soggy day was fruitful!

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  8. Just spent $50 of the proverbial hard-earned on unecessary snackage here!! Then had a browse through Curious Grace, dropped another whopper over at Seddon Food and Wine store, but missed out on a coffee break at Sourdough ... all in all a very productive, albeit expensive wet winter afternoon in Seddon.

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    1. Ah, discretionary snackage! I am full as a goog with gourmet cheese and ice cream. Glad you had a nice arvo. While the best things in life are free, the second-best are pretty goddarn expensive, aren't they!

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  9. What business with “nice, warm, fuzzy” "bongiorno" motivations would stock organic products along with cruelty to chicken meat for $5.99 a kilo? People I know are worried for the lovely small businesses in Seddon like Pompello and Luca House who stock a lot of the same products. Seddon had opportunity to become an amazing small traders centre with a community feel. But the existing businesses have been targeted by this wealthy money-obsessed family of Bongiovanni who obviously aim to take over. All I can see is a big shed format, like Coles or Woolworths, stacked with thousands of products with no pure motivation. The other thing is the lack of parking in Seddon will now make it hard for all of these business- including Bongiovanni. Carrie- Yarraville.

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    1. Carrie, that is a big claim - "...targeted by this wealthy money-obsessed family of Bongiovanni who obviously aim to take over". I'm not sure what information you have, but I wasn't even sure if I should publish this comment as it's almost slanderous. They're very strong words. If anything, they've made a lot of small gourmet producers very happy and therefore more financially viable by stocking their goods. That's a nice change from Coles and its hardcore buying tactics for its own brand goods.

      Anyway, if you read the comments above and on the Facebook page, everyone is extremely adamant that they will continue supporting the existing small businesses in Seddon. I just cannot see people who are already big fans of Pompello suddenly deciding they're going to do their fruit and veg shop at Bongiovanni instead. Others may drive from other areas to Seddon just for Bongiovanni and buy all their fruit and veg there, but they weren't going to shop at Pompello in the first place. Others who come for Bongiovanni will fan out and visit other Seddon businesses (two experiences of exactly that in the comments above).

      As for parking, it's a problem everywhere that becomes desirable - think Fitzroy or St Kilda. Guess we just need to get on our bikes then!

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    2. Carrie, you've made some massive assertions there and I hope you have some proof to back up your outlandish claims? What is it about this new store that's engendering such responses? There is a similarly spiky post on the Bongiovanni Facebook page. Is it the west's own version of the tall poppy syndrome? Remember the sledging campaign when Besito opened.

      But just to rebut your point about existing business losing out... how do you think Waldies felt when Sourdough Kitchen opened? Or the two existing bottle shops when Seddon Wine Store opened? Or the one pet shop on Victoria St and the one on Gamon St when the other one on Victoria St opened? Or Seddon Deadly Sins and Le Chien when Chico opened? What you have observed is commerce, nothing more, nothing less. If a store's offering is unique enough and their service levels high enough, they will succeed no matter what. Especially in a small shopping centre like Seddon.

      You and the other knockers should be thankful for Bongiovanni, and glad that they are bringing new people and new products into our neighbourhood. I'm really happy that they've arrived and the only thing that annoys me is that I didn't have time to get there this weekend, and will have to wait another week to check it out!

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    3. Macpherson, great point about Waldie's and the other 'new' businesses in Seddon.

      I have been worried with all of this that Mr Bongiovanni has been thinking, "Screw you, you ingrates!" but it turns out he's a long-time Seddon trader and local who believes in the future of the suburb. Check out Kenny's wonderful interview with him: http://considerthesauce.net/2012/06/11/meeting-mr-bongiovanni/ I like his comments about the bread issue - very true.

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  10. Thanks for your comment Carrie.
    I'm just a young guy with two young children who came from an un-wealthy family who has been in Seddon for over 7 years as a trader when most of the others were not even here. I employ many young local residents.
    In conclusion, I can honestly say that I know Seddon just as well as anyone. I helped it grow & will continue to do so.
    Fair go.
    A.Bongiovanni

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    1. Hey, thanks for stopping by and for your civil and friendly response to some very fighting words! In all of the criticism I do detect a bit of tall poppy syndrome, but rest assured there's much more happiness and excitement than disgruntlement. I'm delighted you're here and I know many others are too. The Facebook 'likes' on this post are more than double my previous record - people are on the whole very positive.

      I remember writing to Macro when they still existed begging them to open a store in the inner west. No-one's been willing to take the gamble until now. Good on you sir and I look forward to many more delightful hours browsing your fabulous shelves.

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  11. James In FootscrayJune 10, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    I take your point Carrie, but you could equally argue Luca House and Pompello shouldn't have started up, and shouldn't be so attractive, because they take business away from Foodworks.

    Seddon proprietors are smart - I'm sure they'll work out how to differentiate themselves from Bongiovanni, and take advantage of the new situation.

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    1. James, that's a very good point. I guess we hope that the old adage, competition is good for business, will ring true.

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  12. Visited today for the first time, but not the last time -- this place is awesome, and together with Sourdough, Seddon Wine Store and Chicco's there's now a vortex of awesomeness that will draw us in from Yarraville a lot more often than before.

    Despite the $11 price tag, Mango Coyo was out of stock today, and your blog post is probably to blame!

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    1. "Vortex of awesomeness" - love it! Oh, how funny about the Coyo!

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    2. So we tried the passionfruit Coyo as a substitute for mango this morning, and hot damn, that's good stuff -- our household now has three (out of three) new converts. Thanks for the tip!

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    3. Yay! Isn't it just luscious... We have almost finished the Jocks coconut and lime - it's pretty special too. Will have to try the passionfruit!

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    4. I am lactose intolerant, so it gets a bit bland with the same 3 flavours of soya yoghurt. So thank you Lauren for posting about Coyo - I couldn't wait to get down there on Sunday! The stock was a bit thin (its all your fault :) ) but I did manage to get some of the mixed berry flavour. Yum!! I am now addicted!

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    5. Martin, that is brilliant! Make sure you try their 100% coconut milk ice cream too! (I swear, I don't work for Coyo!)

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  13. LOVELY STORE!! A food lover's paradise... So much good quality, fresh and organic produce to go around I could spend a whole hour here alone! Actually, come to think about it, I think I WILL take my parents here when they visit. My family have always been more interested in the food or kitchen sections than clothes or whatever. Good place to spend the day, I reckon =)

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    1. Winston, I couldn't even go down each aisle systematically I was so excited... I just kept buzzing from one corner to another before my credit card started to cry softly to itself.

      My family is the same! My dad has a collection of strange kitchen implements he collects on his travels. I hope you guys have a nice day out in Seddon!

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  14. Been in the store every day since it opened yum yum. Having lived in the Seddon shopping centre for over 5 years I have never seen it so alive so well done to the Seddon Traders and in particular the Bongiovanni family for having the courage and business acumen to establish not one but 2 businesses(Anthony established Seddon Thirsty Camel) that draw a crowd from many other parts of Melbourne. Congratulations, Anthony, Gulia, Samuel and Olivia. We foodies of the west salute you.

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  15. What a treat! So happy this is just around the corner. Can't wait to check it out.

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    1. Lady Lunchalot! I knew I had seen your name somewhere - great to see you're still blogging! I must have read your couple of Footscray posts a hundred times each years ago. They were pretty much the only skerrick of Footscray-centred online content available back then, and they were funny to boot! I hope you like Bongiovanni.

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    2. Thanks Ms Baklover! I took a break from blogging for a few years while my babies were babies, but I'm really enjoying being back in blogland. The landscape has changed a lot in the few years I've been away! Maybe we could catch up for a coffee sometime? I'd love to catch up with another local foodblogger.

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    3. I would love that! Could you email me on footscrayfoodblog@gmail.com and we will work something out?

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  16. Havent stepped inside yet, but as a Newport resident I will happy to visit. It reminds me of Altona Fresh in Second Ave Altona North, (without the fantastic deli) and hopefully without the owner "wolf whistling" at the women walking around the store!

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    1. Oh my god, I love Altona Fresh! Haven't been for ages - must remedy that. Although wolf whistles - that's a bit worrying!

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  17. Make sure you have a try of the Grampians Pure yogurt soon. Had it for the first time as part of the breakfast at The Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld recently... totally awesome! So awesome I'm worried my partner will spend a lot more money at Bongiovanni's once she finds out they have it!

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    1. Phwoar, which flavour? The coconut caught my eye! The yoghurt range in particular is really impressive.

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    2. The coconut, the lemon and the natural were all given a serious workout... I guess that means we'll be picking up the Vanilla next time we visit Bongiavanni!

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  18. Wow, what a vocal and prolific response. On my first, and second visit(and probably also will be on the third) I was wandering around as excited as you Lauren. So many new things to try. As a business owner from a little further down the 'strip' all I can say is I've never seen Seddon so busy. That has to be a good thing. Well done to Anthony and his family!

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    1. Great to hear from another Seddon business owner who has a positive opinion! Fantastic to hear about all the new foot traffic, and I agree, it's my gut feeling this is nothing but a good thing.

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  19. Hey Lauren, I recently did a cooking class with David Thompson and you're right he does use that fish sauce... I'd never heard of it. But now I know where to get it!

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    1. Yes! I want to try it but just bought a whole bottle of Golden Boy and then @cloudcontrol brought me back a lovely bottle from Phu Quoc, so I have a bit of a fish sauce glut. Soon though!

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  20. "..... Or the two existing bottle shops when Seddon Wine Store opened?"


    ha! funny you should mention that..........

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  21. I've been down here twice, mostly for a sticky beak and a meander around what is really a fabulously laid out store. It's a gas wandering around and getting excited about produce that must've taken some real thought to stock, such as the Mure's fish stock/chowder/bisque mentioned in the post. Not sure what's "Truman Show" about this place, Anthony clearly knows his food and is keen to offer products that people want, but haven't been able to find in the west. When Bongiovanni & Son start affiliating themselves with major petrol stations and their shelves become flooded with generic brand items that are discounted at the expense of the producers, then I might be concerned.
    For now, like others I'll continue to spend money in other stores, but will welcome the addition of an astute trader to my favourite shopping strip in the West.

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  22. Great post! love the passionate responses, I live in East Bentleigh and will be visiting Seddon on the odd occasion to shop here for hard to find produce. I will most definitely be checking out the surrounding businesses of Seddon. Wish we had something like this on our end of town.

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  23. While I do applaud the range of great food products they have in store, one-stop-shops are NOT the answer. It is quite clear that Bongiovanni would profit quite substantially with the closure of other local traders, namely Pompello. You cannot deny that this thought hasn't crossed their minds. Even if you continued to buy your fruit and veg from such stores, Bongiovanni could simply sell his fresh produce at a loss, covered by the ridiculously high mark-ups on other products ($8 for a can of refried beans you mentioned!)until Pompello is forced to shut, then he would increase the mark-up on fresh produce as well.

    This is how "one-stop-shops" do business. Their end goal is to create a monopoly. That may suit some other areas in Melbourne, but the reason I choose to live in this area is because of the community and village feel, and I think for many others it's for the same reason. Therefore I will not give their business a single cent, no matter how tempting it is, because I know it will will hinder the long term growth and diversity of the Victoria St shopping strip.

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    1. I respect your right to an opinion, Jared, but I stand by the fact that I think Bongiovanni is a great step for Seddon. The impassioned responses on this page prove that Pompello, Sourdough Kitchen, etc are NOT going to go out of business. If everyone who currently shops at Pompello makes a point of NOT buying fruit and veg from Bongiovanni and continues to shop at Pompello, how is Pompello going to be forced to shut? Likewise, if people who didn't already shop in Seddon now buy some tomatoes from Bongiovanni as well as some Jock's ice cream, how is that going to affect Pompello?

      All I know is that many people have told me they have travelled to Seddon to check out Bongiovanni and the vast majority of them also mentioned that they checked out the other shops in the area and were delighted at what they found. I can't see how this is a bad thing.

      Honestly, people are going on like Coles or Starbucks opened in the middle of the main street! It is still an independent business and like Pompello and Seddon Wine Store, stocks lots of great produce by small producers that might otherwise never get a chance to get on a supermarket shelf.

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  24. Guess what guys not only does A. bongiovanni give us great produce but it will be giving us GREAT COFFEE too. I just saw today that Pomona Coffee or better known as Pomona Cafe (a preston cafe)have set up in the front corner and they will be there on weekends for a few weeks. Cant wait to try it. I have heard a lot about them from friends that live out in the north and i also read the review in the epicure a few weeks ago. I am hanging there this weekend!!!

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  25. We gave Coyo a try - natural flavour. Bennie loves it! I found it damn strange - feels like I'm eating a skincare product!

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  26. It looks like Bongiovanni is not going that well.Working nearby (not for a competitor), it appears deserted most of the time. Spoke to one of the staff in there last Friday and they were pretty glum.The owners are subsidizing heavily and it is nowhere near sustainable on current turnover. If I had to point to any problem I'd say that they fall into an in between category as far as shopping is concerned. They are not the true delicatessen, a la Leo's that the West has been crying out for and they're not a supermarket. They're v expensive but that's not a criticism it just comes with the territory.

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    1. That's very much a contradiction to the many times that I have shopped in the store. You must shop at a time that people are working, because when I drop into the store to grab my yummy ready made meals on the way home from work I am standing at the check out waiting for some time. Try checking this store out on a Saturday morning and you will be eating your words as well as their beautiful selection of foods!

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    2. Hmm, interesting Anthony and anon. I have to say when I go it's not very busy, but that's during business hours on a weekday. Admittedly Sourdough Kitchen is still usually pumping at that time!

      I do think you have a bit of a point Anthony. I think only having prepackaged deli stuff was a real pity. Sims is great and there are a few good 'uns popping up (Provata in Ascot Vale, the new deli at Highpoint) but it would have been brilliant to have another close by, maybe with loads of organic, free range and hard to find stuff. If they had a friendly deli there that did really nice free range ham, freshly sliced and not vacuum packed, I would go there regularly to get it.

      Anyway... We shall see! I would be devastated to see them close. I think it would be a really big shame for Seddon.

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  27. That's right Lauren and that's where real investment - say in a cheese counter - would make all the difference. There are a few around, both smaller supermarkets in Yarraville for example and those you mention, but for the most part they're just genuflecting in the right direction. To me Bongiovanni feels a lot more like an upmarket version of the Mediterranean Supermarket on Sydney Rd than a delicatessen in the true sense of the word. That's okay but I don't think it will be a winning model especially as buying trends among people in the area seem much closer to the 'local/organic' dominant current foodie paradigm.
    I'm not a barracker for either side in the above debate but I wish I could agree with 'Anonymous' above, sadly, in my twenty or so visits since opening I have rarely had to wait.

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  28. We love Bongiovanni's. We think it is the best thing that has happened to Seddon. So many more people around. Plenty of excited goodies to find. My new favourite place. Keep up the fantastic job.
    Marc

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    1. Wait until you have to order anything specially in and watch them fall apart....they couldn't organise an order if their life depended on it!!!!

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