The argument to celebrate Mother’s Day at Cecconi’s restaurant this year is as strong as the hearty Italian flavours it serves on its plates.
From the banks of the Noncello River in Pordenone, Italy, to a stone’s throw from the Yarra River in Melbourne, Cecconi’s history is a tapestry woven with hard-working women whose stories of food and familglia are no more vivid than its matriarch Olimpia Bortolotto.
Immigrating to Australia in 1939, initially to Ingham in Queensland, the importance of honouring family life has always been of importance to Olimpia. Moving to the farming community of Myrtleford shortly after, a hub of Italian culture and familiar emigrant families, Olimpia’s immediate family and her beloved Zias soon established themselves as a food force to be reckoned with.
Through hard work by all, a vegetable patch was soon cultivated into a market garden and orchard that produced not only the family’s fresh food and preserves, but also serviced the likes of the iconic Queen Victoria Market.
Picking beans, tomatoes and radicchio before school – occasionally falling asleep in the afternoons as a result – Olimpia’s fond memories making smallgoods during winter and accompanying her father to buy the family’s cheese stores, have been passed down through the generations just as the reigns to Cecconi’s restaurant have.
In summer, Olimpia remembers her father loading everyone into his five tonne truck for a day of eating, drinking, dancing, singing and laughing with the famiglia. Some 60 years later, she gets to experience the joy of other families celebrating their loving bond over the plates of food at her very own restaurant.
While stepping foot into Cecconi’s basement in Melbourne is an arguably modern experience, its Italian recipes of yesteryear reflect a rich history of home grown goodness and family frivolity. Whether you’re visiting the restaurant for the first time, or you’re a seasoned diner of the Age Good Food Guide establishment, favourites, a woman’s warmth is as ever present as the own women in our worlds.
To celebrate our mothers, and the important role they’ve played in our lives, is as intertwined with the celebration of food as is the story of Cecconi’s restaurant. Without our mothers, our memories would be without the depth of flavour that Cecconi’s would lack should it also with without its women.