The D'Orsogna Story

When it all began...

The 60 year old D’Orsogna business began as a family story more than 80 years ago when Luigi D’Orsogna travelled to the United States in 1926 to visit two of his brothers who’d migrated there four years earlier.

Italian-born Luigi and Concetta D’Orsogna had eight children: Antonietta (1914), Cesare (1917), Tommaso (1918), Giovanni (1920), Mario (1922), Pierino (1923), Rosa (1925) and Esterina (1926).

Luigi returned to Italy shortly after, understanding his small herd of 12 dairy cows could sustain him and his extended family better than working in the US. He heard from relatives in his village of “la nuova America”, or the new America, as Australia was colloquially nicknamed and all the money that was to be made there.
 

Arrival to Fremantle

Determined to migrate to Australia, Luigi did just that in October 1927, departing Italy for Australia aboard the ship Caprera and arriving in Fremantle on November 29. With the Great Depression starting to bite, he travelled from town to town looking for work, before starting in a granite quarry in Roleystone in 1929.

During the 1930s, Wiluna, in central Western Australia, was a thriving mining community with a population of more than 8000, of which 200-to-250 people were Italian. Hearing about Wiluna’s prosperity, Luigi travelled there in 1931, finding work at Wiluna Gold Mines Limited.

After two years he had enough money to buy passage for two of his sons, Cesare aged 16 and Tommaso (Tom) aged 14, who arrived in Fremantle on September 12, 1933 aboard the ship Romolo.

The pair were greeted by Mr Casotti, owner of an Italian restaurant in James Street, Perth, as Luigi could not be at the port to welcome his sons and had made arrangements with Mr Casotti to accommodate the boys while they waited for a train to Wiluna. After a couple of days stay with Mr Casotti, the brothers started their journey to Wiluna.

When the brothers arrived in Wiluna, Luigi enrolled them at the local Catholic school, but they didn’t remain there too long, with Cesare finding work at the Italian owned and operated Rome Bakery where he spent 15 months before joining his father at the mines at the age of 18.
 

The orignal butcher shop

Luigi, keen to find work for Tom, purchased a fruit and vegetable door to door business from a Greek friend and Tom worked this business for a while, but was inexperienced at the tender age of 15 and didn’t understand the business, so it eventually went broke.

Luigi, with Tom by his side, then approached Jim Clarke, who managed Wiluna Meat Supply, about possible work for Tom. Mr Clarke said there was work at the abattoir 10km out of Wiluna for a man, but not for a boy of 15 years.

Luigi’s persistence, however, convinced Mr Clarke to give Tom a chance to prove himself. Tom constantly asked Mr Clarke if there were any jobs at the butcher shop in town and eventually started in the smallgoods manufacturing factory adjacent to the Wiluna Meat Supply’s Butcher Shop, where he spent four years making Australian style sausages, frankfurts, polony, corned beef, pickled pork and dripping.

Effectively, this was the beginning of D’Orsogna Limited as it is known today.
 

Growing the business

Cesare, due for a holiday after three years mining at Wiluna, headed for Fremantle to greet another brother, Giovanni (John), who’d arrived in Fremantle on January 9, 1938, aboard the ship Remo. They both returned to Wiluna to join their father. Cesare, with four other Italian men, thought they’d try their hand at gold prospecting at Mt Vernon (120km east of Wiluna), after hearing of a great gold find.

Due to the shortage of work in 1939 at Wiluna Meat Supply, Tom finished there and joined his brother Cesare prospecting at Mt Vernon. Shortly after, Australia officially entered into World War II and during the next few years the D’Orsogna brothers were captured and interned, despite the fact that Tom, Cesare and John were Australian citizens at the time of their capture and subsequent internment.

After all three were released in August 1944, Cesare joined the merchant navy, John moved to Kalgoorlie to work at the Main Reef Hotel as a barman and Tom began work at Robbs Jetty, South of Fremantle, where he spent three years in the boning room, slaughtering area and cool rooms.

From there, Tom left for Melbourne in 1947 and found day time employment at Otto Wurth Pty Ltd, a continental smallgoods manufacturer in North Melbourne. In the evenings, he was employed at Cafe Latin, 206 Exhibition Street and Mario’s Restaurant, 198 Exhibition Street Melbourne. His brother John also moved to Melbourne in 1947 to work at Cafe Latin. 

After two productive years in Melbourne, Tom returned to Perth, having learnt enough about continental and Italian-style smallgoods and opened his own smallgoods business, T. D’Orsogna Family Butcher in Stone Street, West Perth in March 1949, marrying Maria Carrello the same year.

John returned to Perth in May 1949, in partnership with Tom. Cesare, meanwhile, had left the merchant navy and made his way back to Australia in 1948, working as a waiter on the Orient Line of passenger ships. In 1951 Cesare became a partner as well and the name of the business was changed to D’Orsogna Brothers Pty Ltd.

Luigi returned permanently to Italy in 1951, after an absence of 24 years. On September 5 the same year, another D’Orsogna brother, Pierino, migrated to Australia aboard the ship Neptunia.
 

Establishing the business

As their business prospered, Tom and John involved themselves in many pursuits, sponsoring many cultural activities important to Italians. They established the D’Orsogna Cup in 1960, a soccer competition which helped establish and promote soccer in WA at a time when Australian Rules was the dominant football code. It was the state’s premier soccer competition for more than 30 years.

John D’Orsogna developed the Italian Choir in Perth and later became a patron of the Western Australia Opera Company. While holidaying in Italy John met his future wife Diva. They married there and returned to Perth together in 1955.

Tom and John have each been awarded an Italian Cavalierato for their services to the Italian community in WA; Tom in 1967 and John in 1972.

D’Orsogna Smallgoods moved from West Perth to the corner of Leach Highway and Stock Roads, Palmyra in 1973. D’Orsogna products are now sold Australia wide.

 

D'Orsogna Head Office and Butcher Shop

Dorsogna location