Lo Presti & Son is a bit like an episode of Heartbeat on sedatives.
It really is a time warp to simpler, slower times when we had “mom & pop” stores on every corner in East Fremantle.
After the lady totted up my items at the counter, she walked over to a quaint mechanical till and battered some levers to get my change.
The tiny deli, situated on the Canning Highway beside Domino’s, has a chaotic charm and it looks like someone crammed Kakulas Sister into a phone box – mounds of nuts, dried fruit and cans mingle with vintage signs, gourmet cheeses and cured meats.
The whole thing is teetering on the brink and at any given point you could get wiped out by a tin of cannellini beans.
The store has a rich heritage – Lo Presti & Son was established in 1932 as the ‘Fremantle General store’ by some of the first Italian immigrants to set up greengrocers in Fremantle.
In 1964, the owner’s daughter Mary and her husband Claude relocated the family business to Canning Highway in East Fremantle, where it has remained for the past 58 years.
Claude was a well-known figure in East Freo, always taking the time to stop and have a chinwag with folk, and often drove around in his iconic San Remo green 1965 Ford Thames van. Claude sadly passed away in 2007 but his memory is still very much alive in the family-run store and recently Mary celebrated her 90th birthday.
I dropped into Lo Presti & Son as part of my ongoing quest in our sister paper The Perth Voice to find the best continental roll in Greater Perth.
There were no big garish menus or displays on the wall, so I had to check if they were still doing them, which added to the air of yesteryear.
In terms of price, Presti’s were very reasonable and you could get a classic continental roll for $10 or a three-meat version for $12. There was also a tuna ($12) and a vegan ($11) as well as a range of extra toppings including jalapeños, prosciutto, artichokes and beetroot.
Anyway, I went for the classic.
This was the Rolls-Royce of continental rolls, a refined number that wasn’t the size of a baseball bat and crammed with every meat under the sun (you know those ones that linger in your stomach for days like an abandoned submarine).
It was slightly smaller and the star was the super light fresh bread, which put some others to shame. This roll wasn’t overloaded and had a judicious mix of mild salami, tomato, lettuce, green olives and cheese.
But it was the sun dried tomato that took it to the next level and really demanded your attention.
If you’re a ravenous tradie who just spent the morning digging a ditch, I’d go for the three-meat option, but for prissy keyboard warriors like me, the classic was just the right size for lunch.
My wife had the tuna version for dinner and she also commented on the lightness of the bread and the delicate balance of flavours.
“It’s pretty refined for a continental with a lovely light touch,” she said.
The shop had a nice range of cured meats, olives and gourmet cheeses and I took home some chilli Romano cheese ($6.27) which had a nice mix of creaminess with a latent heat. As well as fresh goods there were loads of imported Italian pastas, tinned foods, sauces and sundries.
The shop was so nice that another customer wanted to buy one of the display items.
I felt like I was in simpler times, when shops shut at 5pm on a Sunday and nowhere was open in the Perth CBD after 8pm on weeknights. Wait a minute…
If you are after a slightly more refined continental roll with great flavours, Lo Presti & Son is a good shout, and with Christmas on the horizon it’s worth going just to check out the store and all the beautiful produce.
Lo Presti & Son
170 Canning Highway, East Fremantle
by STEPHEN POLLOCK