It is no secret that we here at CityMag like to eat. Which is perfect because Imma, the nonna behind Campbelltown’s Mercato, loves to feed people. Case in point – she made us pasta.
Nonna in the city: Imma at Mercato
Walking into Mercato, it’s hard to believe that the present day gourmet food emporium started from humble beginnings when of Imma Caporaso taking a job behind the counter of a small corner deli.
Visit Imma and her family at Mercato: 625-627 Lower North East Road, Campbelltown. They are open weekdays from 7.30am to 6.30pm and weekends from 7.30am to 5pm.
“We started in 1973. I used to make jumpers … and I got sick of it,” says Imma. “I had two children, John and Angela, and I was sick of staying home. So I found myself a job in a continental shop and in the end we bought that shop.”
“And what I love is that all the supermarkets, all the big stores, never had anything continental. All the olive oils, all the prosciutto’, all the pastas, the panettones. You know prosciutto?” We nod, because of course we do. “Well, back in 1973 we had to cut the bone out ourselves. There was no boneless prosciutto so we had to carve the bone out to slice it on the machine for our customers.”
Just as Imma’s seen Australian tastes develop to embrace continental foods, her business has developed. Now she and husband Mario own shops all over Adelaide’s North and have added on a business arm that wholesales local and international products to other restaurants and cafés. What has remained central, however, is Imma’s emphasis on family.
“When we had our Magill Road shop it meant working from six o’clock in the morning to ten o’clock at night. And we couldn’t afford too much staff. So our children used to go on milk crates. John used to pass it to Angela and Angela used to put it in the fridge. They grew up in the shop.”
Now her son John runs the business and Imma works three days a week at the store, “I do a lot of the displays. We make the homemade pasta. We make one… It’s our traditional pasta from the Campania Region and it’s all handmade,” she says lifting her hands up and showing us her palms, “we cut it and then we roll them all one by one.”
Mercato runs events like chestnut roasting and sauce day (where they made over seven thousand bottles of sauce for customers to take home), that aim to keep old Italian family traditions alive in an Australian context.
“When we were in the smaller shop, we only had three or four staff. Now here there is fifty staff but when my son took over, he said ‘I want the same concept’. To treat the customers and the staff as family. It’s very important. And the food … if we didn’t like it for us, we won’t sell it,” says Imma.
Before we sat down to eat, we asked Imma why she does what she does after all these years and she smiled and looked around.
“I love what I do,” she says. “I’ve done this since 1973 … I meet people; I just love doing my job. If you love your work, it’s good. It’s the passion for the food. That’s why we’ve lasted so long.
“Good service, being friendly and cleanliness. That’s what it’s about.”
And, judging by how good her pasta is, it’s definitely about good food for Imma too.