The Hindu Business Line
Journey from films to food
I never wanted to have a restaurant, says Rogerio Fasano at a table in his restaurant Gero in Sao Paulo’s ritzy Jardins neighborhood. Never. But then my father lost everything in a very short time.
Rogerio’s entrepreneur father, Fabrizio Fasano, made a fortune in the 70s, straying from the family’s tried and true restaurant business to sell his Old Eight blend of Scotch. But he wasn’t content and bet on a new secret blend, one spiked with hydrogen peroxide to speed the ageing process. Clients sent it back by the case.
Rogerio Fasano inherited his father’s debts. As the family business went into a tailspin, he abandoned his film studies in London to come back to Brazil to restore the family’s name in the business it had known for generations: food.
No small brand
Today, that name is a cultural icon for this megacity’s billionaires, fashionistas, socialites, and artists, many of them, like Fasano, of Italian descent.
He presides over a growing empire of 15 restaurants and four hotels, including one in Rio de Janeiro with a celebrityfestooned infinity pool overlooking Ipanama beach, one in Uruguay with an Arnold Palmer golf course and private beach and a new one in Miami Beach showcasing architect Isay Weinfeld’s bright modernism.
Brazil’s Veja magazine has called him the man behind Sao Paulo’s greatest gastronomy brand no small statement in the Southern Hemisphere’s food capital.
When we meet for lunch at Gero, Fasano is waiting at the bar, sipping a pinot grigio from his new line of Fasanolabelled wines from Italy. Moments after we sit down, he springs up to chat with the chef.
The new angel hair pasta imported from Italy has set off his garlic radar. Like many of this city’s Italian immigrants, the Fasanos hail from northern Italy, where he says cooks use the aromatic sparingly.
I feel garlic everywhere, he exclaims when he returns. The only way to cook is to never use garlic. Never buy it.
Final say on dishes, design
It’s this kind of attention that gives Fasanos business its character, not just in its food he has final say on dishes, but also in its design. Those close to him say he has mulled over every detail, from the lighting at his group’s Barreto bar to the minutiae of the menus.
His friends call him a frustrated architect, obsessed with design but inept at actually drawing. His eye for light and colour are born of his love of film; the laconic Sergio Leonewestern, Once Upon a Time in the West, competes, he says, with The Godfather as his favourite.
At Gero, a black-and-white portrait of Don Vito Corleone hangs in the dining room next to shots of Sao Paulo’s old downtown.
Just around the corner, Hotel Fasano is one of the few establishments in town that has kept up its quality even after achieving success. The hotel entrance is a bar and lounge with cozy leather chairs that disguise the mechanics of check-in, an innovation for which Fasano claims credit. Bankers, execs, and tycoons from around the region hold court here, supplied by a meticulous wait staff.