Less than two years after a huge transformation that saw the heritage-listed King & Godfree building in Carlton reopen as part grocer and delicatessen, part espresso bar, part Italian eatery and part rooftop bar, it’s returned to its century-old roots, doubling down on the grocer front.

Just days after Victoria declared a state of emergency, executive chef Matteo Toffano began cooking takeaway meals, and soon after that the espresso machine was decommissioned and the grocer concept took over most of the corner store’s ground floor.

“I think we did it pretty quickly,” general manager Jonathan Armao says of the changes. “We got rid of the tables and chairs and utilised a lot of the goods we [already] had in-store: sacks of pasta and tinned tomatoes and all your Italian essentials.”

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The business – helmed by the Valmorbida family for the last 65 years – was instrumental in bringing Italian goods to Australia in the 1950s. It was one of the first to import now-staples such as Moro olive oil, Lavazza coffee, Val Verde tinned tomatoes and Sirena tuna, and you can still pick them up here along with baguettes and sourdough from Wood Frog Bakery, Pepe Saya cultured butter, tubs of Pidapipo ice-cream (choose from passionfruit pavlova; vegan fig sorbet; or a peanut butter, caramel, chocolate and malt-crumble combo), house-roasted coffee beans, and other essentials such as milk, flour and free-range eggs.

The deli cabinet remains well-stocked with mortadella, sopressa salami, San Daniele prosciutto, pancetta, marinated capsicum, pickled octopus and more; and fridges hold Meredith Dairy goat’s cheese, That’s Amore mozzarella, double-cream brie and Grana Padano.

New are Toffano’s ready-to-heat meals: house-made lasagne; eggplant parmigiana that’s grilled, not fried; classic pizza Margherita with 72-hour fermented dough; a rotating soup special; porchetta rolls; and more. There are also bits and bobs for you to put together at home, such as a rich beef and pork bolognaise, a bright Napoli sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil; tomato-chilli pesto; and potato gnocchi.

There are still Italian wines and beers (including Ichnusa, a lager from Sardinia), and now you’ll also find fresh fruit and vegetables: bright heads of radicchio, juicy roma tomatoes, Dutch cream potatoes (the best for making gnocchi at home), and more.

“If you used to come to King & Godfree prior to the rebuild, especially in the ’70s to ’90s, you’ll recognise the space more now than you would’ve a couple months back,” Armao says. “The floor is filled with goods in the same manner as a Mediterranean wholesaler.”

Most of it is available for home delivery, too. Order online, or ring the store to ask about specialty goods – Armao says the team has made fresh pasta in unique shapes by request in the past. But he knows King & Godfree isn’t a one-stop shop.

“We’re not gonna fill our shelves with butchered meat when you can go across the road and support someone else, too,” he says. “Go to Market Lane to get your coffee; go to Baker D Chirico for a loaf of bread; come to King & Godfree to get your salami and cheese; then go to Donati’s to get your meats.”

And he says that while the lockdown is still in place, the team will be keeping Melburnians’ pantries stocked for as long as it needs to.

“We need to do what we can to stay alive, so that people will have Johnny’s Green Room to come back to for a drink next summer, or Agostino for a beautiful bottle of wine with fresh pasta, or even just a morning coffee and cannoli downstairs,” he says. “If people come in and support us now, we’ll still be here then.”

King & Godfree is offering Broadsheet readers 10 per cent off online orders over $100 until 11.59pm on Friday May 29. Use the code BROADSHEET10 at checkout.

King & Godfree
293–297 Lygon Street, Carlton
03 9347 1619

Daily 9am–8pm