Decades of delectables

By Cuisine2 Minutes
October 30, 2023By Cuisine

Auckland store Sabato celebrates three decades of success.

It’s hard to believe it’s 30 years since Jacqui and Phil Dixon started selling their first imported food products to Aucklanders through their Sabato brand. Their store – a fixture of Normanby Road in Mt Eden since 1993 – is more than just a place to buy excellent-quality olive oil, vinegar, cheese, chocolate, rice, pasta and other delicious items to fill your pantry and fridge. In fact, it’s an important piece of the culinary history of Tāmaki Makaurau: the start of our evolution from ‘meat and three vege’ cuisine to the adventurous international home cooks we are today.

“It really all started because we wanted to feed ourselves,” says Jacqui. “At that time there really wasn’t much at the truly artisan end of the market and once we tried some of these products through a contact in Sydney, we saw why people were happily paying what they paid for them.”

It was the support of enthusiastic Kiwi chefs and food writers in the very early days that led to their success. “One of our first ventures into selling to the public was actually through an ad in Cuisine when we were selling via newsletter and mail order from our double garage at home with two young kids in tow.”

What the couple loved right from the start was the understanding that using good products meant quite sophisticated-sounding dishes could become everyday dishes for the home kitchen. That’s really been the basis of their success right up to today: honest, good-quality ingredients used simply. And while the market has evolved significantly since those early days, Sabato is still going strong with products the public and chefs still can’t get enough of. As always, this year people will flock there for their amazing selection of Italian panettone, a lovely lighter version of Christmas cake. As Jacqui likes to say, “We’re selling pleasure – that’s what makes this all so much fun.” ALEXIA SANTAMARIA