Rows of scarlet pomegranates, purple panama passionfruit and rosy tegan blue plums. Wedges of bright pink watermelons, their perfume filling the shop. Piles of nobbly celeriac, Dutch carrots, and something new, sinfully sweet Australian dates from the Territory. The most beautiful shop on the street also has the best flavours.
When Salvatore Galluzzo took over at 187 Glebe Point Road from Francisco d’Albora in 1934, it was one of 25 fruit shops in the suburb. 84 years later, it’s the only one of those originals left. And it’s run by the same family. A still point in a rapidly turning world.
Back then, Glebe was a crazy mixed up suburb. Down the Broadway end, a slum of tiny working-class tenements. Towards the harbour, the posh end, Toxteth Estate, although many of the grand houses at that end of Glebe Point Road were boarding houses for Italian migrants by then. Rozelle Bay was industrial – timber mills, a box factory and a slaughter house. Glebe remains the most socially mixed of the inner city suburbs, partly because of the Whitlam Government’s purchase of the Glebe Estate as public housing. You see that social mix six days a week at Galluzzo’s.
When we moved to Glebe in 1998, Frank Galluzzo, the son of Salvatore (who inevitably became Sam) was still alive. Not well, but always beside the cash register at the front of the shop with a blanket over his knees. When Frank died in 2010, along with many customers and two ex-premiers of NSW, I went to his funeral. There’s a big painting of him on the wall behind the spud shelves.
Every morning either of his grandsons, Joe or Damien, who now run the shop – along with Frank Jr, Damien’s eldest boy – are at the markets at 3am, selecting the best produce. Drop by at 7, and you’ll see the truck being unloaded. Out front Joe is dealing with wholesale customers, and Damien and the other employees are stocking the shop. Customers begin to roll in around 7.30. Joe and Damien know most of them by name.
Long time employee Steve Fante is arranging the streetfront display. “The principle,” he tells me, “is to arrange it to feed the eye – nice red papaya to break it up, some pink watermelon behind.”
Damien takes me down the back to show me ‘female’ tomatoes, big fruit with a long gash on the underside rather than a dimple. “These are the only tomatoes Dad would eat,” he tells me. I have them on toasted soy linseed bread from Sonoma up the road. There’s no such thing as a female tomato, but they’re delicious all the same.
The part-gentrification of Glebe has been good for the family. Food writers, chefs and others who love to eat have pushed them to stock the best and most interesting produce. Hence those dates from the Territory, the Spanish toad skin (piel de sapo) melons and Tasmanian organic garlic.
Saturday’s the big day here. Customers flock from all over. They fill the narrow aisles accepting tastes of particularly succulent fruits offered by Damien, Joe and Steve. It’s about more than just buying fruit and veg, it’s about community. A social occasion. Around 4, you’ll hear big Steve in his other role as spruiker, clearing out the produce they haven’t sold that won’t keep until Monday in bargain mixed boxes. “Ten dollar! ten dollar! ten dollar!” he bellows. And soon, it’s gone. What’s left goes to a nearby pie shop. The shutters come down. The Galluzzos sleep in on Sunday.
187 Glebe Point Road, Glebe. Phone 96602114
6.00am-7.30pm Monday to Friday; 6.00am-7.00am Saturday,