Stay tuned!

italian kitchen austin

We’ll be revealing details about Al Fico, its new chef, its menu, and opening date shortly.

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Al Fico

1700 E 2nd St. Austin, TX 78702 (cross street: Chalmers)

Owners: Jeff Courington and Kelly Bell (founders and owners at Vino Vino)

Food: Authentic and creative Italian cuisine inspired by osteria cooking; traditional dishes and contemporary interpretations of classics; Roman-style wood-fired pizza; 100 percent Italian wine list featuring iconic estates as well as avant-garde winemakers.

Décor: Old-school Italian osteria with tiled floors, white tablecloths, and chandeliers; photographs of Italy and Italians, shot on and printed from analog film by Austin artist Nils Juul-hansen, line the walls.

The name “Al Fico” means literally “by the fig tree.” In the era after WWII, Italian cheese mongers and salumi producers would set up stand in the shade of trees along the road so that they could sell their wares to passing travelers. As Italy rebuilt and the economic outlook improved, many of them opened restaurants in the shadow of those same trees. The name of Jeff Courington and Kelly Bell’s Al Fico is inspired by that tradition and their love of all things Italian.

We have our building permit! June 2013 projected opening

al fico blueprint

We are thrilled to share the news that Al Fico has FINALLY obtained its building permit from the City of Austin. Demolition and construction has officially begun!

al fico building

The building at the corner of East 2nd and Chalmers was originally built as a chapel and later became a soup kitchen after World War II.

Until recently, it’s been an office complex.

al fico table

We’ll be documenting our build-out here on the Al Fico blog as we transform this historic Austin building into the authentic Italian trattoria of our dreams!

We hope to be open by June 2013…

Stay tuned…

Should Lambrusco become the official wine of Texas?

Currently by the glass at Vino Vino

ca montanari lambrusco modena

We’ve been digging the Ca’ Montanari Lambrusco di Modena “Opera 2″ so much that we’ve been thinking it should be made the official wine of Texas.

It’s so fresh, bright, and refreshing, a perfect food wine with very low alcohol, high acidity, and that classic gentle Lambrusco fizziness that makes everything go down better.

Great wine…

Grissini, the original breadsticks (are Italian, of course!)

Few people know that breadsticks — commonly served today in restaurants across the world — originated in Turin (Piedmont), Italy in the seventeenth century.

In Italian, they are called grissini: the term grissino (singular) probably comes from ghr’ssa, a Piedmontese dialectal term meaning grill. Linguists believe that the breadsticks were so named because they resembled the bars of a grill.

In Italy, they are almost always presented on the table of restaurants when guests sit down.

Sometimes they are also served wrapped in prosciutto as an appetizer.

Even in Italy’s finest restaurants, they are almost always present.

The breadstick, just another one of Italy’s great gifts to the world!

Radicchio Trevigiano

radicchio trevigiano

The most common type of radicchio worldwide is the variety called Chioggia, but in the Veneto, Radicchio Trevigiano proudly rules the table.

With its storied past, radicchio has been part of the Italian diet since the times of Pliny the Elder. Prized for its nutritional properties and pleasantly bitter bite, it adds a kick, not to mention a pop of color to any menu.

There are two types of the variety particular to Treviso: precoce, and tardivo. Precoce, or early radicchio, is long and slender with leaves of even width. The tardivo, or late-ripening radicchio, boasts the famous finger-like leaves and has a more pronounced flavor. Resembling a wine-stained flower, this head of lettuce chicory is anything but ordinary.

Radicchio Trevigiano is available starting in the late fall and produces throughout winter.

The bitter flavor is attributed to a chemical called intybin, which is known to stimulate the appetite and help purify the liver.

There are so many ways to prepare this versatile vegetable. In addition to its obvious use in salad, radicchio is delicious simply grilled with olive oil, sautéed and added to risotto, or braised until tender. The opportunity for creativity endless and any effort made to locate this culinary star is handsomely rewarded at any table.

The truth about pizza and wine…

Everybody’s talking about pizza and wine, wine and pizza, pizza and pizza today…

In part because Eric Asimov wrote about pairing wine with pizza in his column in today’s New York Times.

In part because nearly the entire Dining Section of the Times is devoted to pizza today: toppings for pizza, recipes for pizza dough, and of course pairings for pizza.

Eric notes in his article that “Italians themselves prefer to drink beer with pizza.”

And indeed, despite what anyone tells you, Italians generally pair either beer or Coca Cola with their pizza. In fact, many would find it strange to pair wine with pizza.

There are many reasons for this but the main and historic reason is that authentic pizza must be served piping hot. And as a result, you need something chilled with pizza. The intense temperature overwhelms the flavors and aromas of wines — or so the conventional wisdom goes.

Italians still prefer beer or Coke with their pizza. But that’s changing as well.

A new breed of pizzaioli has emerged and they are straying from the traditional toppings.

And while artisanal beer seems to be the pairing of choice these days in Rome, for example, more and more pizzerias are offering a sophisticated wine list to their patrons.