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…

Did you know that Pinot Grigio is actually a red grape?

regalo abbracci

Jeff’s wine pick: Gavi (Cortese) from Piedmont

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.

what does al fico mean?

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.

Buon appetito!

Jeff’s Amazing Voyage to Italy: Trattoria Masenini, Verona (Chapter 3)

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! :)


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