Gino d’Ambrosio’s mum is the typical Italian cook. She bakes pizza, prepares pasta, rabbit ragout, salami and tiramisu for dessert for the 27 people of her family at gatherings. This shows what kind of a character she is and the taste of good things she transmits to the children and grandchildren. When you enter her son’s butcher shop, you understand straight away that he belongs to the tradition. He sells not only meat but also the essential ingredients to his family’s homemade specialities: Parmiggiano and coffee, white truffle olive oil, balsamic vinegar and spices.
However, it is not that simple. Consider that Gino d’Ambrosio is born in Australia. Add to his Italian background a bit of Australian quirkiness, and you get the taste of the new generation’s culture. Therefore, one of his salamis is made from crocodile meat. “By the way, he says, I will have to fly to Darwin to pick up my 60 kg of chopped and frozen crocodile at the farm to bring it back to the capital.”
“The taste of crocodile is between fish and chicken. The possum is like wild rabbit, sweeter and tough. Emu and kangaroo have a stronger flavour and it is a very lean meat.” Gino d’Ambrosio also nurtures a down to earth philosophy. He knows the growers. “To get the better meat, you have to know them. I go to the farms regularly. I don’t buy from wholesalers. Wallabies and possums are wild animals. But, I have collaborated with the same hunter since the opening of my shop, ten years ago.”
To further guarantee the flavour, in his shop he sells only organic meat: “You cannot do bits and pieces. Otherwise, how can the customer know what he is buying? And then, no steroids nor antibiotics. This contributes to the flavour.”
Who likes this exotic meat, I asked. I admit, myself, unless somebody cooks something for me, I wouldn’t be inclined to buy some. Unusual meat represents roughly 25% of his sales. “The consumers are between 25 and 45 years old. First, they want to give it a try. Usually, it is to arrange a surprise for overseas relatives, to let them have a taste of Australia. Once they have had it, they come back to it. But then older people stay away from new food experiences,” Gino laughs.
In the shop, I noticed some meditation books lying on a display cabinet just above a shelf of sharp knives. I expressed my surprise. “Oh these are written by one of my clients. I offered to sell them for him. My own meditation is quite different. It happens when I am on my motorbike, an Italian Ducati.” Out in the country, he rides on his 50 acre property. No animals on it. Just the feeling of freedom and distance. An Italian-Australian mixed interpretation of happiness.