Three generations of Valmorbidas have owned King & Godfree, the Italian grocery store on the corner of Lygon and Faraday Streets in Carlton. Now, for the first time in 20 years, the family behind imported Italian brands such as Lavazza coffee, La Gina tomatoes and Sirena tuna is planning a redevelopment, and they’re dreaming big.
Carlo and Elsie Valmorbida bought King & Godfree in 1955 after emigrating from Italy. They passed it on to their children, who kept it going, then acquired the two adjacent shops and began leasing them out. Last December, one of those shops (299 Lygon Street), became Pidapipo, the gelateria started by their granddaughter, Lisa Valmorbida.
Pidapipo was phase one. The next two stages will be rolled out in December 2015 and mid-2016, eventually turning the three corner shops into a compact food precinct, under the guidance of Lisa, her brother Jamie and their cousin, Luca Sbardella. “It’s a family passion project,” Jamie says, “Our cousins, sisters, aunties and parents are all involved.”
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Phase two will see an Italian wine bar and shop open next to Pidapipo in mid-2015. Shortly after, King & Godfree will close down for a minor facelift in October. When it reopens before Christmas, there’ll be more of an emphasis on cafe service and espresso, while the traditional grocery and deli section will continue.
“We hadn’t done much to the property for a long time,” says Jamie. “For the past 20 years at least, King & Godfree hadn’t really evolved.” He thinks this is at odds with its history, which included 70 years of trade before the Valmorbidas arrived to give the place an Italian spin.
The third and final phase is a restaurant on Faraday Street, due to open mid-2016. The family is currently scouring Sydney and Melbourne for chefs. The venue will be part of a new wave of Italian dining to hit Lygon Street, in the same vein as D.O.C. and Heartattack and Vine.
“This next phase is another exciting chapter in King & Godfree’s evolution. We think the timing couldn't be better,” says Jamie.
King & Godfree
293 Lygon Street, Carlton
(03) 9347 1618