John and Kevin’s Fresh Seafood

John and Kevin’s Fresh Seafood – or Buttacavoli’s as it’s known by locals – is an institution at Footscray Market. 

It’s the only market stall still owned by the original owners, and it has not ceased trading in over forty years. 

Only fishmonger in Australia without a freezer

“I reckon we’re probably the only fishmonger in Australia without a freezer too,” laughs Craig McCluskley, the co-manager at Buttacavoli’s. “That means while the city sleeps, at 4am we go to the wholesale fish market in Kensington, bring back the fresh fish to fillet on site and then sell out everything in one day.”

Craig, along with Gary, the son of John Buttacavoli (the ‘John’ in the shop name), are the stalwart faces that you’ll see at the stall day in, day out, along with Gary’s siblings Lisa and Paul.

Lived two doors down

Both Craig and Gary were born and bred in Footscray (“Ted Whitten lived two doors down from me,” Craig reminisces), and they have been best friends since they were children. At the stall, you can even spot a sepia photo of the two of them as kids in knitted shirts and short pants, arms draped around each other’s shoulders. 

Craig remembers how the Buttacavoli family got their start at Footscray Market.

Site full of crushed rock

“John Buttacavoli was selling fresh fish to the pubs of Footscray from his truck and trailer. Gary and I used to have to clean out the truck as kids! John was told that Footscray was going to get a new indoor market and asked whether he wanted a stall. I remember going to the site full of crushed rock and being shown the yellow spray-painted perimeter of stalls 119 and 120.”

“The market was very different from what it is now. It used to be a European market, with coffee shops, delis and even a Turkish restaurant. As the population changed, so did the market, so Gary went to Vietnamese classes, and I learnt the language through my Vietnamese wife.”

DSC01020-1(1)

Loyal customers know that along with a side of Vietnamese banter from Craig or Gary they’ll receive salmon that is always sashimi grade, any fish can be filleted to order and the ice display will always stock small whole fish like mackerel and sardines. 

What will the next forty years mean for Buttacavoli’s?

“We love dealing with the public, and we’re all mates. I was Gary’s best man at his wedding, and he was the best man at my wedding. We have a long friendship and still socialise out of work, and it’s great to be able to work with the family. 

“But the next generation isn’t interested in taking over the business. So when we decide to hang up our gumboots, that may be the end for Buttacavoli’s at Footscray Market. We’re going to keep going for as long as we can!”