The story of Enoteca Sileno begins with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Italy and other war-torn European countries from the end of the 1940s and the large urban Italian communities which formed in the inner suburbs of Australia’s main cities.
In 1953 he was the first Italian immigrant to have a stand at the Home Show in the Melbourne Exhibition Building displaying a Borletti portable sewing machine, Venetian glass from Murano and Italian cigars and cigarettes.
In 1955 he bought the first Christmas Panettone cakes (Alemagna brand) to Australia, having them packed in zinc-lined wooden crates to maintian their freshness.
Gino is also credited with importing the first “calcio-balilla”, table football game to Australia, which was installed in the L’Europeo Espresso Bar in Lygon Street.
However, during the 60s he also played an important role in introducing Australian products to Italy by exhibiting at the Italian International Food Fairs. Here he gave Italians their first taste of Carlton Draught and Swan Lager beers and Australian tinned fruit. He was also responsible for what is possibly the earliest exhibit of Indigenous Australian artifacts in Italy, with a display that included bark paintings, carvings and tools.
The first Enoteca Sileno retail showroom was officially opened by the Italian Ambassador at 21 Amess Street, Carlton North on 30 June, 1982. It had been Gino’s dream to give Melbourne a genuine enoteca - a place where people could explore Italy’s rich culture of indigenous grape varieties and regional styles. The shop attracted lovers of Italian food and wine from all over Australia and many of our long-standing customers still remember the cramped and cluttered Amess Street store with great affection.
Throughout the '80s and '90s Gino Di Santo and Enoteca Sileno continued to influence the Australian food and wine scene. In 1988 Gino founded the first delegation in Australia of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine) (pictured) which works to protect and promote the rich culture of Italian cuisine.
In 1990 Enoteca Sileno made fresh truffles available to Australians for the first time air freighting them in specially made transport containers.
In 2004, 14 years after opening the original Enoteca Sileno, the Italian Ambassador was once again invited to cut the ribbon on our current home at 920 Lygon Street.