Suzi: Tell me a sort of brief history of the Marios family in Ballarat...
Vicky: It all started with Peter Marios senior (Poppa). He came to Ballarat in the 1960s.
Peter opened Marios Fruit Palace in Sturt Street. Peter was a very particular man. In everything he did, only the best would do. In 1973, his son John took over the Fruit
John has previously run his fruit shop from Town Hall and Nick also had a fruit shop where Sports Biz now stands. Peter senior then opened the Athena.
We believe that Papa was the first shop in Ballarat to cook fresh fish. It was the best quality, always with lemon. Lemon was his solution to all. He would put it in his hair, rub it on his body, clean with it and it went in every recipe.
S: Did you work with Mr Marios, Vicki?
V: Yes, he taught me to cook. I was 16 and had no cooking experience. I shared in his passion and Nick and I started Florentinos Deli in the 1980s. Florentinos was in the 400 block of Sturt Street, in the spot where Darriwill Farm is today.
S: How did you come to be in Sturt Street west?
V: Nick had great foresight and, at the time, there were no businesses in the west end, except the Athena. The house next door was where Peter lived, so he moved out and we built the Olive Grove.
Poppa said we should call it Peter’s Corner, as the church was just a couple of doors up.
S: It was great to see you do so well in last year’s Golden Plate awards, winning the award for the best local and fresh produce. What is the biggest seller at the moment?
V: The Tasmanian free-range wursthouse ham. We carve it fresh off the bone. Cheese has always been a big seller as well. The fresh delice cheese is very popular. Our fresh pasta is a constant favourite; we have
been selling the same fresh pasta for 17 years.
S: I could spend days feasting on everything in the display fridge, do you taste everything for quality control (the best part of the job)?
V: As a family we try everything. I research new produce, get some in take it home, we cook with it and try it. It has to be great otherwise it just doesn’t make it into the fridge. We never sell anything that isn’t excellent. The shop is like an extension of our personal pantry.
S: What’s the most popular dish on the menu?
V: The souvlaki. The kid brought the wraps back from Greece one year. The leg of lamb comes from John Harbour the butcher and we marinate it in red wine, only if we’re making it at home though.
S: I love the way there is always a Marios in
V: Yes, that’s our policy. We can all do each other’s job. Alex has been doing the books for 14 years, Deanna is our head chef, Peter makes the best coffee and Alethea is our most charming hostess.
S: Do you guys go out in Ballarat much?
V: If we get a chance we go to Dyers Steak Stable, we love it there. They have the same family values as us, and we still set a place for Nick and buy him a drink.
S: So tell me, do you do the big Greek dinner at home?
V: Yes we love to eat together. A typical family meal is lamb, Greek meatballs, pastitzio and, of course, the Greek salad.
S: I can’t finish this interview without honouring the late Nick Marios. Elvis hasn’t left the building.The family continues to celebrate Nick’s life, in the music they play, his rock and roll collections still on view and the gregarious hospitality that Nick and Vicki created lives on. I’m hoping for the diners and foodies of Ballarat that the Marios family stay in the building too.