HER first experience of Fremantle was so awful it left her in tears, but Giovanna Tagliaferri eventually became synonymous with life in the port city.
The successful businesswoman (and qualified teacher) who ruled over Interfoods on Fremantle’s South Terrace for 28 years died at Fiona Stanley Hospital last week, aged 90. She’d been ill for several years.
Ms Tagliaferri grew up in Italy but left home in 1955—against her parents’ wishes—to marry beau Osvaldo, who’d been living in Fremantle since the mid-‘30s and was part-owner of the Capri restaurant.
On her arrival at Fremantle Harbour, she discovered he was too busy to meet her, so she had to drag her own luggage into town. Ravenously hungry, she was sent to the back of the restaurant; her setting was a copy of the Daily News and cooks slaughtered chickens around her as she ate.
Reduced to tears
The experience reduced her to tears, says son Peter (the city’s former mayor).
But the couple persisted, Mr Tagliaferri says, and soon expanded their business to include things as diverse as a farm at Salmon Gums.
They also opened a shop called Panorama Stores on the corner of Solomon and Stevens streets where Ms Tagliaferri served behind the counter and built up a wide social network.
Mr Tagliaferri says it’s been amazing how many people offering condolences had formed their friendship with his mum at the store, while many more remembered her from her decades at Interfoods.
He says many important decisions affecting Fremantle’s future were made out the front of the store’s cafe, over coffees or continental rolls, as it was the gathering place of the who’s who of the city’s politics.
Former federal treasurer John Dawkins and state attorney-general Jim McGinty were regulars, while Hollywood star Matthew Modine and Jack Thompson wouldn’t eat anywhere else while filming the America’s Cup film Wind in 1992. The pair also ended up back at the Tagliaferri house for dinner a few times.
Mr Tagliaferri has discovered, following his mother’s death, that she was a sucker for nurses at Fremantle hospital, often taking them cups of coffee to keep them going through their long shifts.
And despite having a well-known temper that could wither the burliest customer foolish enough to complain their roll seemed a bit short on tomato, he says he’s discovered she was also something of a matchmaker and marriage counsellor.
by STEVE GRANT