Adrian Craddock with Maria Carmina Biondillo. Picture: Michael O'Brien/The West Australian

Maria Carmina Biondillo cried every day.

The young Italian immigrant arrived at Fremantle in 1955 to a new life, far away from the post-war privations of Europe.

She found it difficult.

There was no proper coffee, no wine to speak of, no pasta and few opportunities to meet other Italians.

The recollections of her early life and the role of WA's iconic Italian food and wine outlet, the Re Store, are central to a short film which premieres tonight at Hyde Park.

Director Adrian Craddock said the now 80-year-old Ms Biondillo remembered the not-so-distant past when pasta was looked upon with suspicion and olive oil was something you bought at a pharmacy.

"It was an amazing time when you think about it," he said. "Pharmacists must have wondered what was happening when Italians began queuing at their counters for olive oil."

Ms Biondillo said she had not seen a sneak preview of the film and was looking forward to tonight's outdoor premiere.

"They were tough times," she said. "But the Australians were very kind to us in the 1950s. I did cry very day. It's true. I missed the smells and food and people of Naples."

Craddock's 12-minute film, part-funded by a grant from the Town of Vincent, tells the story of the transformation of Italian food as something suspicious and "woggy" to the most-loved and universal cuisine in WA.

"It's really all about the Re Store," he said. "Without it and its founder John Re, Italian culture and, of course, food would be much less than it is today.

"In time, it was the Re Store which became a source of great joy for Maria Carmina and the thousands like her who could shop for their foods, read Italian newspapers, talk to Italian friends and drink great coffee."

The film, Spaghetti in the Suburbs, includes grainy and evocative Super 8 film from the 1960s and documents the role of the Re family in bringing Australian food out of the Italian neighbourhoods to the wider community.

Craddock, a WA journalist and former London-based business editor, says the Re family's story is as important as that of the big European family companies, so profound has been its impact on the city's culture.

"No one could have predicted the incredible popularity of Italian food when it really took off in the broader community in the early 1980s," he said.

The Re family also created the biggest Italian wholesale and import business in WA, European Foods, which among other things is the State's largest coffee roaster.

Spaghetti in the Suburbs will show free at Hyde Park today at 5.30pm. It is part of the City of Vincent Film Project, with support from the Film and Television Institute.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

More from The West