Giuseppe Buzzi and his fried fish shop

Giuseppe Buzzi and his fried fish shop

This photo taken between 1908 and 1912 shows a sleepy Latrobe St afternoon. The image is dominated by a giant telegraph pole with a fire alarm.

An unhitched cart is parked nearby, the horse presumably having retired to a nearby livery stable and his master to his home or perhaps some well-earned refreshment at a nearby hostelry, maybe the International or Exhibition Hotels just down the road.

On the other side of the street an enigmatic figure stands in the long shadows stretching across the entrance to Evans Lane.

On the opposite side of Evans Lane is a shop with a verandah. Part of the signage can just be made out. This is the restaurant of Giuseppe Buzzi at 105 Latrobe St.

We have only the barest details of Giuseppe’s time in Melbourne but we know enough to follow at least part of his story for a while. He first appears in 1897 at 41 King William St, Fitzroy. No profession is listed next to his name so this, presumably, is where he lives.

In the next year he is joined by Mr J. Gottardo, a chimney sweep and, likely, a fellow countryman. Unfortunately, we never learn Mr Gottardo’s given name apart from the anglicised letter “J”. The two continue to share digs here until 1903.

Giuseppe Buzzi disappears from the lists of Sands and McDougall Directories in 1904 but reappears in 1905 having purchased a fried fish shop from Constantin Theodorou at 182 Exhibition St not far from the bustle of Bourke Street but he moves again in 1907 and the fish shop becomes tearooms.

By 1908 he is listed as a restauranteur with premises at 105 Latrobe Street, the well-presented frontage we can see in the photo. Giuseppe ran his business here until 1912 when he relocated to 400 or 490 Spencer St where he ran another fish and chip shop until 1918, when he disappears.

This is the little we know of Giuseppe Buzzi, the man whose proud little restaurant becomes the true focus of this image. It is tempting to clothe this skeleton of a life with many imaginings, but Evans Lane no longer runs to Latrobe St.

The little shops have been swallowed by glass towers and, in the end, Giuseppe remains much like the figure in the afternoon shadow, just beyond our reach. •

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