Food Wine Produce
27/10/2019
Fishing for life, love and family

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Love. Love of family. Love of food and love of fishing! Stephano ‘Steve’ Falconieri is a family man who loves to sit on the water and feel his dinghy sway from side to side with the tide. Feel it wash his worries away out into the vast endless sky. Born in a tiny fishing village in Sicily, where his father Leo made a living out of angling, this Mount Martha resident has the salt of the ocean in his blood. His father would sometimes be away from home for a month fishing for tuna, swordfish and yellowfin while his mother Carmella would stay on shore looking after the family. Tending to the children, three sisters and a brother, waiting for the catch of the day to roll in from somewhere out there on the horizon. 

Steve explains: “It was hard work. Sometimes my father would come home without a catch and there were only lentils, chickpeas, beans and bread. My mother used to lock up the food and say, ‘When your dad comes home there’ll be food on the table’, but that wasn’t always true. I used to love going fishing with him when I was a child. I didn’t go on the overnight trips, but we’d leave at 4 or 5 in the afternoon and stay out fishing until midnight. He was the head chef in the Navy and was a great cook. He fished by the clouds, the sun, the stars and the moon. He could tell what kind of fish he’d catch by which way the wind was blowing. When there was a haze around the moon he knew the catch would be good.”

Leo and Carmella rented a house in Sandringham when they first came to Australia, then moved to Hampton and finally settled in Moorabbin. The fifth child came along and Steve’s passion for fishing continued. “I was the only boy with four sisters. I went fishing every weekend with my uncle Frank in his dinghy and dropped the handline in. I was always in a boat. We fished in Flinders, Portsea and over to Queenscliff. I used to catch flounder with a torch and spear with a mate. We’d take the battery out of the car to charge the torch and dive for abalone in the late ‘50s when you still could. I remember swimming in Hampton once and a three-foot shark was circling me. I grabbed it by the tail and threw it back into the sea. As soon as I was 18 my dad said, ‘You had better get a towbar’. 

“I used to go fishing for flathead and garfish every night after work by myself. My wife Concetta (Connie) and I built this house in Mount Martha in 1996 and my father would come fishing with me in the bay. We raised eight children here. Dad was almost 91 years old when we fished together for the last time. We caught 20 calamari out in the bay and Connie cooked his last meal.” 

Steve stopped fishing solo about five years ago because you never know what might happen when you’re over 70. He now divides his time between tending his magnificent garden, which has 12 fruit trees, potatoes, broad beans, tomatoes, peas, silverbeet, herbs, a fig tree, grapes — you get the drift — and fishing with his son-in-law Leonardo, who is now learning the ropes. Steve knows all the reefs in Mount Martha and still loves to cook stuffed mussels while Connie makes stuffed calamari and profiteroles with fresh cream in the kitchen. We partake of the latter with coffee while gazing out to Port Phillip Bay in the distance until my time is up. 

From fishing to fresh food plucked from the garden, Steve and Connie are what family is all about: sticking together while floating through the ocean of life. You never know what you might catch, right?

LIZ ROGERS

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