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!
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.
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…
The northwest Italian region of Piedmont (meaning the foot of the mountains) is generally known for its red wines: Barbera and Dolcetto, Barbaresco and Barolo…
But they also grow and raise some excellent white wines there.
When it comes to Italian white wines in general, owner and wine director at Vino Vino Jeff Courington always seems to be reaching for one of his personal favorites: Gavi (appellation) made from Cortese (grape variety).
The Cortese grape is all about freshness and bright acidity. The village of Gavi where this wine is grown is located about halfway from the upper Mediterranean sea and the foothills of the Alps. As a result, it enjoys cool air coming down from the mountains heading toward the sea. The cool air helps to keep the vineyards ventilated (thus preventing rot and mildew) and it keeps the fruit cool at night during the summer as the berries reach complete ripening.
Palladino is an OLD SCHOOL producer: no spoof here! Classic, clean, crisp Gavi, ideal for seafood and spicier dishes…
Currently featured by the glass at Vino Vino.
The word fico (pronounced FEE-koh) means both fig and fig tree.
And al (pronounced AHL) means at the.
In Italian, the expression al fico means at the fig tree, as in the expression I’ll meet you at the fig tree.
Many, many years ago, when Italian salumi and cheese makers wanted to sell their wares to travelers and passers by, they would set up a stand along the road. Wanting to keep their foods fresh and cool, they would seek the shade of a tree.
And what better tree than the fig tree, with its dense branches and broad leaves, to provide the ideal shelter for the roadside salumi and cheese stand?
Somewhere along the way, a fig dropped to the ground and found itself accompanied by a slice of crumbly sheep’s milk cheese. And thus one of humankind’s greatest discoveries was made: ripe figs and cheese.
In the years that came to pass, a few of those salumi and cheese vendors were struck with a brilliant idea: instead of setting up roadside shops, why don’t we open a restaurant along the road? That way, people can stop and enjoy an entire meal as they rest from their travels.
And thus, the Italian trattoria (TRAHT-toh-REE-ah) was born — in the shade of a fig tree (or perhaps a pear tree or an olive tree).
Today in Italy, you still find scores of restaurants called trattoria al fico, osteria all’ulivo (tavern at the olive tree), ristorante al pero (restaurant at the pear tree), a homage to the way things were in a slower time and a slower age.
Here at Al Fico, Austin, there’s nothing more satisfying to us that a plate of crumbly cow’s and sheep’s milk cheeses paired with freshly picked seasonal figs. That’s why we decided to call our restaurant Al Fico.
Photos by Linda Ryan.
Dinner at Trattoria Masenini in the heart of Verona is always an unforgettable experience.
Classic pumpkin- and amaretti-filled ravioli, a seasonal mainstay of northern Italian cuisine.
Gnocchi topped with shaved black truffles.
“Torta della Nonna,” grandma’s cake…
Did you know that in Italy they don’t call it Italian food? They JUST CALL IT FOOD!
Photos by Linda Ryan.
We loved this photo that Jeff brought back from his recent “Amazing Voyage to Italy”: it shows how the unique geography of Alto Adige (South Tyrol) creates the ideal conditions for growing fine wine grapes.
Note how the relatively narrow valley floor (an ancient river bed) is flat and how the Alps “spring up” around it. In the summertime, heat collects on the valley floor, helping the grapes to ripen healthily. But when the sun sets, the high altitude brings the temperatures down, creating the classic “temperature variation” needed to make truly great wines. And all the while, the shape of the valley, running north-south, naturally ventilates the vineyards, as the northern breeze comes down the corridor from the northern Alps.
Jeff paid a visit to legendary Alto Adige producer Alois Lageder, where the winemaker projects images of live yeast cells on the aging casks (yeast is what turns the sugar of grape juice into alcohol). Classic music is played to “soothe” the wines as they age.
On deck for later this week: Jeff’s visit to Trattoria Masenini in Verona…
Here are some images from partner Jeff Courington’s recent trip to Alto Adige (AHL-toh AH-dee-jay, otherwise known as South Tyrol, German-speaking Italy).
Photos by Linda Ryan.
So, here’s the skinny on AL FICO, a new Italian coming to Austin in spring 2012…