Café Sa­pori’s Fabrizio Giorgi has a culi­nary path that takes him around the world

Palm Beach Daily News - - OPINION -

Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Fabrizio Giorgi is co-owner with gen­eral man­ager Francesco Blanco of Café Sa­pori near the South­ern Boule­vard Bridge in West Palm Beach. Giorgi ad­mits to “ar­gu­ing for months with Blanco” be­fore agree­ing on the restau­rant’s name (Sa­pori means fla­vors in Ital­ian). Giorgi’s story is the next in our sum­mer se­ries of lead­ing lo­cal per­son­al­i­ties from the world of food and wine.

Three jobs in one month

Giorgi’s par­ents came from south­ern Italy but moved north near Lake Como to join one of their cousins. Both worked in a lo­cal fac­tory. He has fond mem­o­ries of his grand­mother mak­ing salami and olive oil while his grand­fa­ther made wine for the fam­ily. This in­spired his in­ter­est in cook­ing and, at 14, he en­rolled at a culi­nary school while work­ing at a lo­cal Ital­ian restau­rant at week­ends. He re­counted how he found the dis­ci­pline in pro­fes­sional kitchens very dif­fi­cult at the be­gin­ning; his first job lasted one week and the sec­ond job two weeks, but by the third job he was there for six months and start­ing to re­ally en­joy his cho­sen ca­reer.

He moved on to the five-star Castello di Casiglio ho­tel that is part of a cas­tle that dates to about 1400. He spent two years de­vel­op­ing his skills un­der the crit­i­cal eye of a French head chef; this in­cluded cook­ing for the Ger­man soc­cer team dur­ing the 1990 World Cup. Restau­rants in Ger­many and Switzer­land fol­lowed. His one year of na­tional ser­vice with the Ital­ian Army was spent as a driver for se­nior U.S. Army of­fi­cers on NATO duty.

Af­ter­ward, he worked for Miche­lin-starred chef Gian­carlo Morelli in Italy, be­fore Morelli sent him to New York to work at il Palio di Siena. He also worked two years on Sun­set Boule­vard in Los An­ge­les and then back to New York for his first ex­ec­u­tive chef po­si­tion. Three years later, he moved to Palm Beach and worked at Bice, where he led the kitchen staff for five years; met his wife, Lora; and in 2006 he and Blanco left to open Café Sa­pori.


Know­ing that Giorgi grew up near Lake Como, I se­lected a wine, the 2009 Conti Ser­toli Salis In­ferno, from that area for our tast­ing. It was a ruby red color with a dark or­ange fringe. The nose was ini­tially rem­i­nis­cent of vi­o­lets that evolved to show spice, black tea and black fruits. The palate was typ­i­cal neb­bi­olo grapes with black­ber­ries, liquorice and firm (but not over­pow­er­ing) tan­nins from two years ag­ing in oak bar­rels. Giorgi sug­gested a pair­ing of “Pecorino to bring out the spice and truf­fle fla­vors in the cheese, and build on the earthy as­pects of the wine.” We moved to the kitchen for Giorgi to demon­strate one of his fa­vorite dishes.

Risotto with a mod­ern twist

Giorgi started a tra­di­tional risotto by dic­ing some white onion and then sautéed it gen­tly for a few min­utes be­fore adding the Carnaroli rice and stir­ring slowly for a minute. The chicken stock was then added a lit­tle at a time.

Giorgi ex­plained that “if you add all the stock at once it boils and is not ab­sorbed by the rice.”

The risotto then took a mod­ern twist with the ad­di­tion of white wine, grated Parme­san cheese and sweet potato. Served on a warm flat plate, “not in a pile as it will be­come over-cooked from its own heat,” it was fin­ished with slices of fresh figs and a driz­zle of fig vin­cotto vine­gar. It was won­der­ful, es­pe­cially the firm tex­ture cre­ated by the Carnaroli rice.

Fam­ily and fu­ture plans

Giorgi, 43, has spent 29 years in the kitchen cre­at­ing new dishes and re­fin­ing tra­di­tional Ital­ian cook­ing. Fam­ily life in­cludes his wife and their chil­dren, an 11-year-old son and 15-year-old daugh­ter. He has two sis­ters who live near Mi­lan.

Giorgi and Blanco are con­sid­er­ing a sec­ond restau­rant but there are no firm plans so far. They pro­vide small-scale out­side cater­ing ser­vices now and are look­ing to ex­pand this side of the busi­ness. His pas­sion re­mains cook­ing and Giorgi is keen to spend more time de­vel­op­ing new dishes but feels con­sumed by the need to main­tain high stan­dards in the restau­rant.

Villa Anti­nori Rosso

Mov­ing back to the restau­rant Giorgi ex­plained that when­ever he is in the mood for a glass of wine, usu­ally with food, he in­vari­ably reaches for a bot­tle of Villa Anti­nori Rosso from Tus­cany, so he opened a 2013 vin­tage. It was es­sen­tially a san­giovese based wine with the ad­di­tion of small amounts of caber­net sauvi­gnon, mer­lot and syrah. Ruby red in color, it showed good legs when swirled in the glass. The nose had an abun­dance of red fruits with gen­tle spices and this came through in the palate to­gether with dark choco­late and re­fined tan­nins, re­flect­ing the 12 months of ag­ing in French, Hun­gar­ian and Amer­i­can oak bar­rels. Giorgi de­scribed it as “a smooth wine with fruit and flo­ral aro­mas that has a rounded palate.”

Although first pro­duced in 1928, the wine­mak­ing ap­proach was changed in 2001 by Piero Anti­nori, the cur­rent head of the fam­ily busi­ness. Us­ing the Tus­can IGT (typ­i­cal ge­o­graph­i­cal in­di­ca­tion) des­ig­na­tion it is now pro­duced ex­clu­sively from a se­lec­tion of the winer­ies finest grapes from pro­pri­etary vine­yards.

As we fin­ished, Giorgi was pleased to dis­cover that I left the In­ferno for him to share with his wife.

Photo by Paul Wil­liam Coombs

Chef Fabrizio Giorgi cooks a fig-fla­vored risotto at Café Sa­pori.

Paul Wil­liam Coombs

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