Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Maria Teresa Ferrari (1884–1969)

by W. S. Benwell

This article was published:

View Previous Version

Maria Teresa Ferrari is a minor entry in this article

Mario Antonio Francesco Battista Virginio Vigano (1888-1966), restaurateur, was born on 27 August 1888 at Olgiate Comasco, Lombardia, Italy, son of Ferdinando Vigano, architect, and his wife Antonia, née Azzali. Educated at Milan, Mario studied law at the University of Pavia, but did not graduate. As a young man he served in the 1911-12 war against Turkey. In 1912 he travelled to Canada where he met Italian-born Maria Teresa Ferrari (1884-1969) and about October 1914 married her in Winnipeg. Vigano found work in a Vancouver hotel and with the Canadian Pacific Railways. Enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in 1917, he served until 1919 as a private in the 29th Vancouver Battalion and was awarded the D.C.M. during operations in France.

Resident again in Italy from 1919, Vigano was unsympathetic to the Mussolini régime and migrated with his family, arriving in Melbourne in January 1928. Working first as a waiter at Scott's Hotel in Collins Street, then as a partner in a catering business, he obtained a lease and later purchased the Melbourne Club Hotel, 198 Exhibition Street, which he opened as Mario's in 1932. From modest beginnings its restaurant was expanded to some 200 covers and offered an extensive menu, basically Italian in style. Vigano brought several chefs from Italy to his kitchens. Moderately priced and well serviced, the restaurant was popular for family celebrations; situated in the theatre district, it also attracted a clientele from all social strata: Mario's became the most widely patronized of Melbourne's Italian restaurants.

Of middle height (5 ft 8 ins, 173 cm), with a powerful physique and erect stance, Vigano was clean-shaven and broad faced, with a wide mouth and sunny expression. In his restaurant he dressed formally in striped trousers and dark jacket. Something of a 'showman', at times flamboyant in manner, he was always a prominent figure among the diners. He was naturalized in 1933. Following the success of his restaurant, he bought a property at South Morang where he entertained in generous fashion and indulged his liking for riding. In 1955 he took ownership of the premises occupied by Camillo Triaca's business 'the Latin'.

Maria Teresa Vigano often assisted in the restaurant. A painter of distinction who had studied at the Brera Academy of Art, Milan, in 1909-10, she exhibited in Rome (1963) and Adelaide (1965). Mario Vigano died at his hotel on 16 February 1966 and was buried with Catholic rites in Preston cemetery. He was survived by his wife, a daughter, and a son who carried his father's name to the restaurant of the Brighton Beach Hotel which he owned in 1968-89. Mario's was purchased in 1966 by Triaca's son David who ran it until 1968. Maria Teresa died in Melbourne on 26 February 1969. A commemorative exhibition of her work was held at the Victorian College of the Arts Gallery in 1981. She is represented in the National Gallery of Victoria, and eight of her paintings hang in her granddaughter's restaurant, Mietta's, Melbourne.

Select Bibliography

  • M. G. Henderson, 500 Victorians (Melb, 1934)
  • Pix, 22 Jan 1966
  • Age (Melbourne), 17 Feb 1966
  • naturalisation papers (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

W. S. Benwell, 'Ferrari, Maria Teresa (1884–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Vigano, Maria Teresa



26 February, 1969 (aged ~ 85)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia