Enoteca Sileno: Carlton North cultural history fresh on market

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A wine coloured facade with half a century of history behind.

Aficionados of quality imported Italian goods have the chance to create the ultimate top-shelf Carlton North conversion.

The original Amess St address of wine and premium food institution Enoteca Sileno has been put on the market after more than half a century of family ownership.

Gino Di Santo established the retail showroom at 21-23 Amess St in 1982, after migrating to Australia from Italy post war, when it was opened by the Italian ambassador.

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Vintage charm.

There should be no shortage of wine to celebrate an auction win with.

An upstairs loft space.

It was the first place in Australia that specialised in Italian wines, and the first business, as far as the family knows, to use the word Enoteca, which means wine shop or — colloquially in Italy — wine bar or casual restaurant where wine is the main attraction.

The business, now under the direction of Mr Di Santo’s daughter Rosemary and her husband, John Portelli, moved to its current site on the corner of Lygon and Richardson streets in 2004.

It sells products such as olive oil, craft beer and sauces, runs cooking classes and offers dine-in and takeaway delicacies from its much larger 920 Lygon St home.

Woodards Carlton agent Jack Resic said the family had owned the Amess St property “since the early 1950s” and had used it for storage since moving address.

“They’re emotionally attached to the property and just want to put it on the market and thought now was a good time,” he said.

John Portelli at Enoteca Sileno’s 920 Lygon St site.

The business as it looks now on Lygon St.

Italian delicacies to eat in.

And take away.

“It’s a residential overlay on the property, not a commercial one, so you’ve really got to turn it into a home, subject to council approval.”

Mr Resic said the business was an “institution for North Carlton” that a lot of people knew very well and wanted to check out when it was open for inspection.

The Enoteca Sileno website states its Amess St shop “attracted lovers of Italian food and wine from all over Australia”.

A location close to the city.

Living room potential.

And a courtyard with parking space.

“Many of our longstanding customers still remember the cramped and cluttered Amess Street store with great affection,” it says.

Listing photos show timber-lined ceilings and walls in some of the main rooms, and exposed brick in others, with old signage, bottles of wine and artwork still on show.

The 437sq m property is listed for auction on October 12 with $2-$2.2 million price hopes.

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