Stylish Italian Cuisine in the City of Dreams
There is fine food and there is fantastic food. What is the difference? Patrons like Fabio Giacobello, the owner of Fabios, an upscale Italian restaurant with a tempting lounge and a cool bar.
Fabio Giacobello brought some big city glamour to historic Vienna and created the perfect setting for experiments with Italian cuisine. The popularity of his restaurant, Fabios, lays not only in the exquisite dishes he delights his customers with, but also the sleek refined NYC vibe of the décor. Step inside for elegant honest food, a chat with the patron or a cocktail in the lounge.
But if the chat with an Italian Bon vivant is the most tempting, I think you will enjoy our interview with Fabio Giacobello; on career choices, contemporary cuisine and Viennese hotspots.
Three things you love:
Number one is eating, number two all about the sea and number three my love for aesthetics, for beautiful things, art and architecture.
When did you know that running a restaurant will be your professional destiny and what would have been an alternative?
After one year of studying Architecture in Milan I found out that I did not really like to study. Then my father told me that I have to earn my own money now and the only way to finance my living was by starting a job in the restaurant world. As I already had formation in a hotel management school in Merano, it was an excellent fit and I liked it so much that I am still doing it today.
The alternative would have been architecture or design. One of my dreams is to combine design with gastronomy, such as creating a series of fine glasses or plates; I can probably do this in the future.
Photo | Fabios Restaurant
Before you started your own restaurant you have worked with many great chefs in Europe and Miami, US. What are the most important or the most surprising things you learned from them?
The person who has influenced me a lot was Eckart Witzigmann. He has always made something new, even when others have said – how can you do that? He also worked a lot with “basics” in service and in the kitchen which impressed me a lot.
The best I have learned from my patrons is to always be curious and to never give up. A second rule is to never stand above your guests but always meet them on eye level.
The best I have learned from my patrons is to always be curious and to never give up.
Today “Fabios” is a restaurant, a lounge and a bar in one place. What was the original concept behind it and how did it develop over the years?
I like to travel to cities like London, Miami, New York or Hong Kong. On my trips I never go to Michelin Star restaurants, I prefer restaurants with a cool architecture where the mix of bar-lounge-restaurant is part of the concept. Therefore, for me an excellent restaurant always has to offer a cool bar too. Food and drinks must be of excellent quality but not by themselves but as part of a trendy original concept. We have made a redesign in 2012 and the restaurant has now a much lighter ambience but the core concept is still the same.
Photo | Fabios Lounge
How would you describe this special “Fabios experience” that attracts managers, politicians, artists, celebrities and many more?
I think it is important that you meet your guest at eye level and not play the role of a servant. We treat everyone who comes to us very normal, give him a friendly welcome and offer him all the service that he wants and needs.
What would you like your guests to say after they finish tasting your dishes?
Many people who come to us for the first time expect the big magic with outstanding decorations and super plates. I am not a fan of this as I always love simplicity in the kitchen and on our plates. The quality of the food has to be excellent but we are not those guys who garnish everything just to make it look good. We want our guests to feel comfortable and like in Italy, they can tell us if they want their fish with vegetables instead of the suggested side dish on the menu. We are extremely responsive to these individual wishes and probably this is the special experience that our guests notice and take back as a souvenir when they leave Fabios.
Besides the excellent Italian cuisine you now also offer a “Cucina light”. What can we expect and which dishes are must-tries when our international readers come to visit your place?
I recently spent five weeks in Bali and everything I ate was „organic food“. In Vienna I integrate a lot of this healthy cuisine in our “Cucina Light”. When coming to Fabios your readers should taste fish, fresh vegetables and salads. We have a charcoal grill, a Fogolar, and this gives fish, vegetables but also meat a slightly smoky flavour. Therefore try dishes from the Fogolar.
Photo | Fabios Restaurant
For years professional restaurant critics like Gault Millau or Guide Michelin have been very important for the success of a top restaurant. Did this change due to the popularity of Social Media and rating platforms like Tripadvisor and how do you react to those trends?
It has certainly an impact on the clientele. Every tourist today looks at TripAdvisor when he plans a trip. I personally do not use it when I travel. You cannot compare an ice cream parlour, a food shop and a restaurant in one pot as each of them follows a different philosophy. If they differentiate it more depending on the different branches and target groups they would get higher credibility and would be more meaningful. An unsatisfied guest, even with unjustified criticism, can cause a considerable downgrading of an excellent restaurant in the TripAdvisor ranking.
I am still of the old school but have to acknowledge that social media like Facebook but also food bloggers have more influence on our guests. We recently posted a special Italian fish soup on our Facebook page and in the following period we sold considerably more of it in our restaurant.
For me the most important thing is for the guests to like to come here and that my restaurant is full. Seeing this, the TripAdvisor rating is no longer so important.
What is your favourite food/dish? What do you like to eat?
I love to eat Spaghetti Pomodoro with fresh basil or salami with bread. In Asia I like to eat light dishes like fish and salads. The less complicated the more enjoyable.
As an Italian in Vienna, what do you like most about this town? And is there a special Viennese style?
Vienna has a special flair because when you are there you feel like you travelled back to the famous imperial time. The buildings in the city centre are beautifully restored and maintained which underlines this ancient imperial feeling. The lifestyle is unique, you have the city, the Danube, all surrounded by hills. There are so many ways to relax and just feel good. As for clothing I don´t see a local Viennese style, it is rather classic, but this is also fine.
Three things aside from the sightseeing highlights stylish fashionistas must see/try while in Vienna are…
Definitely a walk along the Danube has a special flair. If you have a little more time, explore the surroundings of Vienna with charming restaurants and wineries, all with very nice ambiance.
If you stay in the city you can reach most of the interesting things within walking distance. Go for a stroll from the first district to the Museumsquartier and then to the 6th and 7th district which offers very nice cafés, bars and small shops.
Your favourite restaurants, cafés and bars in Vienna are (apart from your own ones of course)…
I honestly admit, I’m not much on the road. My favourite restaurant is Mochi – especially for lunch – or just to taste their take away which is very good too. I very much like the Sodoma in Tulln (Gasthof zur Sonne Sodoma, Tulln). I also like the Steierereck. Otherwise, I visit Café Marcusplatz and when I still worked at Novelli, I spent a lot of time in Bräunerhof, a classic of the Viennese coffee house culture.
For me there is only one shop and that is AMICIS. Golden Quarter is obvious, then I recommend Chegini which I like also very much. Really cool fashion for men and women you´ll find at Wolfensson in the Habsburgergasse. For crazy fashion, I would recommend the small stores in the 6th and 7th district.
Photo | Fabios Restaurant
How to spend a perfect Sunday in Vienna with friends?
You can relax in the countryside around Vienna, for example the Lobau or you can bike towards Klosterneuburg. Of course you can go to a classical concert. I am a big fan of the Opera, especially Verdi and Puccini but also Mozart.
I am a big fan of the Opera, especially Verdi and Puccini but also Mozart.
You received numerous awards, even a Lifetime Award. What are the goals you want to achieve in the upcoming years?
A restaurant in Bali or Bangkok would be quite attractive. In Vienna, I´d love to do another thing if I find the right place – something casual Italian. A personal goal is certainly my own family, but I was told it takes a woman to do that (laughs).
Before we pack our bags for some Italian food in Bali, first make a reservation to visit one of the best restaurants in Vienna. And since you’re around, check out Fabio’s recommendations for great adventures around the city, in his guide to Vienna. Finally, while you relax with a cocktail in hand at Fabios and reminisce about your holiday memories, let us know what are your own Vienna finds. Bon appetit!