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Food and beverage stories

Our Tasmanian Grocer

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There’s a little slice of Tassie in the middle of Melbourne where homesick ex-pats can stock up their pantry with local favourites – from leatherwood honey to scallop pies.

The Tasmanian Grocer may be on a side street in Hampton, but there is a well-beaten path to its door.

Customers come in search of Tasmanian staples: cheeses, chutneys, raspberry jam, and cool climate wines. They also hunt down more exotic delicacies like quails, salmon sausages, and abalone.

It’s a showcase of the island state under one roof.

“I like to think of it as a sort of embassy to Tasmania,” the Tasmanian Grocer’s, Samuel Caccavo, explains.

“Everything here is beautifully sourced from Tasmania. All the amazing spirits, all the amazing honey. It’s the taste of Tasmania, absolutely beautiful, and quintessentially Tasmanian.”

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Now in its fifth year, the Tasmanian Grocer is also a family business.

It’s part of the extensive business dealings of an entrepreneurial Tasmanian clan, whose interests include construction, seafood, and artisan spirits.

However, it seems that with the Tasmanian Grocer, the Caccavo family has come full circle – back to where it all began.

Back to when Samuel’s grandfather, Ralph, at the tender age of 21, opened a small deli in Hobart’s Elizabeth street, before expanding his business to a fleet of trucks ferrying dried foods to restaurants across the city.

By the early 80s, Ralph had added supermarkets – his two well-known ‘Ralph's Super 7’ stores – to the business. Then, twenty years ago the family took a leap into the seafood industry, focusing on abalone exports to China.

“Our family has always been in food. It’s in our blood,” Samuel’s father, Rocky, tells us.

“I grew up working by my dad’s side in our supermarkets. And I learnt more there doing the ledgers and selling to the customers in those stores than anywhere else. And now, Sam is learning the ropes at our Tasmanian Grocer store.

“He is the third generation of the family to be involved in the food business.”

While the Tasmanian Grocer is just a small part of the family’s business dealings, it provides a valuable outlet for their own products, which are sold alongside those of other boutique producers.

When we visit, the shelves are stocked with hand-crafted spirits from the family’s Devil’s Distillery which was set up in 2015.

In that short time, Devil’s Distillery has collected a swag of impressive awards; most recently at the prestigious 2018 China Wine and Spirits Awards – where three of its products were awarded double gold.

The single malt Hobart Whisky sits side-by-side with Tasmanian Moonshine spirits, including vodka, liquorice infused coffee liqueur, and popular Tasmanian Mellifera.

“Our Mellifera is a malt liqueur and made from the finest Tasmanian ingredients: Tasmanian water, Tasmanian barley, and honey from Lake Pedder,” Rocky says.

There is also the family’s olive oil on the shelves.

“This olive oil is very special to me,” Samuel says as he points to a bottle.

“When my parents married, they bought a farm at Campania, Tasmania – and 23 years later we now have 18,000 trees and the most beautiful olive oil in Tasmania.

“I am proud to say I grew up on that farm and absolutely loved the olive oil.”

However, out of all the Caccavo produced products, there is one that customers clamour to buy. Scallop pies.

This iconic Tassie treat is the outright favourite, and Rocky tells us they have sold around 15,000 pies since opening this little slice of Tassie in the heart of Melbourne.

“We have regulars who come in every week for their scallop pies. As far as I am concerned it doesn’t get any more Tasmanian than that.”

Image courtesy of Robert Heazlewood

14 October 2018, Edition 199

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