By Meg Hill
“My favourite part of my job is the compliment you get when you help someone and they walk away with a smile,” said Sharon Brooks, the owner of Queen Victoria Market’s (QVM) Traditional Pasta Shop.
“Helping them with a product or a simple thing like telling them how to cook a product or what kind of sauce to use.”
“People really like that closeness; they walk away with a smile on their face because you’ve helped them out.”
If the market and the world have changed over the 24 years Sharon has run the shop, people’s appreciation for pasta has not.
But, surprisingly, the expertise that Sharon provides was all learnt on the job.
“The shop became available 24 years ago and I just purchased it, that’s it,” she said.
“I was just a mum of four kids. I knew nothing about pasta apart from eating it. It takes a while to learn products and cooking times and everything, but over time you learn it all.”
“You get to know what products are really popular, what customers ask for. We have a broad range of fresh and dry pasta and when a customer asks for something, generally we have it right here.”
Sharon said customer favourites are often very traditional. One stand-out is orecchiette, which comes with a traditional recipe that customers love.
And, of course, the fresh ravioli.
“These are my favourite,” Sharon said.
“They come in a veal and white wine, a mushroom and ricotta, pumpkin and ricotta, and specialty pastas – today I have sweet potato and leek.”
Almost all of the pasta is sourced from Italy, with a notable exception of an Australian-made gluten free brand.
A look around the shop is almost overwhelming for a pasta novice – which is why Sharon’s help is so appreciated.
The variety of pastas, sauces and condiments – like a delicious black garlic antipasto – is impressive.
“It might be a tiny shop but there’s a lot of products,” Sharon said.
And it seems that Sharon’s shop is a fixture at the market as pasta is to the culinary scene.
“I spoke to a husband and wife two weeks ago and they mentioned how they’ve been shopping here for 30 to 40 years, and their families have been coming here,” Sharon said.
“Some move on and then come back, and you get some beautiful customers that you sit with and have a chat with, you become friends.”
The Traditional Pasta Shop is located at Shop 3-4 in the Dairy Produce Hall.
The Queen Victoria Market will also turn into a cheese-lovers dream this month when the Holey Cheese Festival returns for its second year.
The week-long festival runs from October 22-27 and will showcase the very best of the Victorian dairy scene.