Nine months ago Chef Fabio Flagiello arrived in Boulder to become the executive chef of Bacaro Venetian Tavern. Born and raised in Trieste, Italy Fabio knew early on that he was interested in becoming a chef. After beginning culinary school in his home town he went on to cook in Venice, Italy. From there his culinary journey led him to cook in Paris, Boston, California and now, lucky for us, Boulder.
I jumped at the chance to interview Chef Fabio, especially after eating three amazing courses on Culinary Connector’s first ever Top Restaurant Tour in Boulder. In Fabio’s bio it says that he catered events and taught classes for Hollywood personalities. That’s not all he did. During his tenure in Los Angeles he was called upon to act as a film consultant for roles requiring culinary talent. He was the inspiration for the character Primo in the movie “Big Night”. “The most fun I’ve had is teaching Tony Shalhoub how to look and act like me for the movie.” says, Chef Flagiello. Among other famous personalities Fabio had the chance to cook for Marlon Brando. “He was the most special celebrity I’ve cooked for. It was his birthday. We did 5 to 6 courses.” So how does Fabio feel about living in Boulder after cooking all over the world and with celebrities? “I like the political aspects of Boulder.” he says.
When asked about the difference between American kitchens and European kitchens Fabio says both have very passionate chefs. The history of food in Europe is obviously influencing what is going on in States today. In Europe, Fabio says it was easier to source good products. “In the States I really have to look for good produce and high quality purveyors. Fish is very different. In the Mediterranean the fish are smaller and their flavor is more intense.” Fabio also comments about the “foodies” in Europe. “The culture in Europe about restaurants is different. It is very chef driven. The Chef in Europe cooks the best he can to impress his public. Patrons come to the restaurants to experience what the chef can do.” In the States, Fabio feels as though the public runs the show. What we as consumers want drives what he can put and sell on his menu. It’s about making compromises.
When asked what he would add to the menu at Bacaro if he didn’t have to worry about a dish selling, he immediately responds with RABBIT. Fabio would like to make Bacaro a little more Venetian. It is after all called Bacaro Venetian Taverna. Traditionally you would find more tripe, anchovies and onions on the menu; however to keep attracting guests Fabio says you must compromise a little and make your menu agreeable.
Fabio says he can’t live without his German knives. “They feel the best in my hand, they are easy to sharpen, well balanced and they last a long time.” He also has a strong penchant for sturdy kitchen tongs and big kitchen towels. Just make sure, though, if you are working in his kitchen that you don’t use too many towels or fail to clean the kitchen floor. These are two things that Fabio can’t stand.
While he has no favorite cookbook he will tell you that he loves to cook with mushrooms. Fresh porcinis, chanterelles, morels, trumpets and criminis are all on his “go to” list. His tip for cooking mushrooms – pan roast them with rosemary, olive oil, garlic, shallots, salt and black pepper. His other favorite ingredient is fish! Fish currently featured on the menu at Bacaro include Branzino, Halibut, Sole, Octopus and a variety of shellfish.
Fabio says white truffles (because of the cost) and salmon are two ingredients that he feels are overused in kitchens today. Regarding food trends, his favorite is using organic produce and buying from local farmers. Fabio says he also likes making smaller portions. He is triathlete and an Iron Man competitor and as such is interested in finding the balance between both great tasting and healthful meals.
Most weeknights during service you will find Fabio cooking on the line. He is either at the grill or pasta station. The pasta at Bacaro is house made and I can tell you from experience that it is delicious. On the weekends he expedites. “Expediting” is chef talk for standing in the kitchen communicating orders to other chefs as tickets come in, and ensuring a table’s dishes are ready at the same time for pick up.
Ultimately what makes Fabio the happiest are guests who like trying new things, guests who are adventurous and not scared to taste dishes like tripe or rabbit. Please stop in, try something new and say hello to Chef Fabio. Bacaro is open daily from 4 – 10 p.m. For reservations call 303-444-4888.