CHEF’S GLOBAL JOURNEY
Café Sapori’s Fabrizio Giorgi has a culinary path that takes him around the world
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.
Chef Fabrizio Giorgi cooks a fig-flavored risotto at Café Sapori.
Paul William Coombs