Build-out update (opening summer 2014)

italian restaurant austin

al fico austin italian restaurant

Build-out update: plumbing done, electric in the works

beautiful sky texas

The Al Fico build-out is nearing completion.

Plumbing has been completed and electric is going in this week.

Once all the wiring is done, the builders can begin to add the finishing touches.

We’re still looking at a late summer 2013 launch.

Stay tuned! And thanks for your support.

italian restaurant east austin

Dean Chambers is Al Fico’s new chef

chef al fico austin texas

Above: Chefs Dean Chambers and Jesse Marco. Trained in Italy, chef Dean is Al Fico’s new chef. He and Jesse have already been developing the new menu together at Vino Vino.

We are thrilled to announce that Dean Chambers (above, left, with Chef Jesse Marco of Vino Vino) has been hired as the new chef at Al Fico, Austin’s new Italian, slated for a late summer 2013 launch.

Chefs Dean and Jesse have already been developing new dishes for the Al Fico menu and the kitchen at Vino Vino has been featuring some of their new creations on the Vino Vino menu (subject to availability).

seafood pasta best austin

Above: Taglierini al nero di seppia con vongole (Cuttlefish Ink Taglierini with Fresh Clams). On a recent evening, an Austin-based food blogger and longtime resident of Naples, Italy, said that this dish tasted “like the Amalfi coast!”

Born and raised in Austin, Texas, chef Dean discovered his passion for cooking thanks to his Italian-born grandfather, Pasquale Pavone, from the central Italian region of Abruzzo (famous for its cured meats, dried pastas, and its black truffles).

“Every Sunday, my grandfather made a classic ‘red sauce’ dinner. He would simmer all the meats in the tomato sauce, served the sauce over pasta, and then serve the meats as second course.”

After high school, he worked his way up from dish washer to sous chef, ultimately landing a job under Chef Harvey Harris of Siena Ristorante Toscana, Austin’s leading Italian chef.

Inspired by Chef Harvey’s tales of Italy and his experience studying Italian gastronomy in Italy, Dean followed in his footsteps: in 2004, he attended the prestigious ICIF, the Italian culinary and enology institute in Piedmont, Italy.

branzino austin texas

Above: The whole Branzino, real sea bass. This entrée is already on the menu at Vino Vino for just $23.

Chef Jesse Marco is also a native Texan, born in El Paso and raised at Ft. Hood.

After completing his training on the Austin campus of the renowned Le Cordon Bleu cooking school,  Jesse packed up and headed out to Afghanistan, where he worked as a contract cook for the United States military.

After paying off his student loans, he came back to his native Texas where he landed a job with Chef Esteban Escobar at Vino Vino in 2008.

“I learned culinary technique in cooking school,” says Jesse. “Everything else I learned from Esteban,” who attention to detail and passion for authentic European and American cooking still helps to set Vino Vino’s menu apart from the rest.

“I’m really happy about our new whole branzino,” notes Jesse, “it’s one of the best deals on the menu right now.”

“We weren’t sure if people would be okay with being served the whole fish, with the head and tail, the way they do it in the Mediterranean. But we sell out every night!”

Al Fico — an authentic Italian trattoria from the team behind Vino Vino — is slated to open on East 2nd St. @ Chalmers by the end of summer 2013.

March 2013 construction update

fico march

fico march 1

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.

Now THAT’s what we call salame…

Soppressa from Treviso.


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