From Chef to Fashion Designer

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Photo by Faith Willinger

Fabio Picchi has always been my favorite chef-restaurateur in Florence; he's created an empire in the Sant'Ambrogio area. His restaurants, Cibreo and Trattoria Cibreino, and his private club, Teatro del Sale, serve some the city's best food, at prices that range from expensive (Cibreo) to bargain (Teatro del Sale).

Membership in the club is 5 euros for foreigners not living in Florence, and the club is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Meals are served buffet-style, with hot dishes coming out in waves, announced by Fabio or the chef from the window of the glassed-in kitchen, through which you can view the wood-burning oven (amazing roasted potatoes), slow spinning spit-roaster (producing pork and sausage skewers), and last-minute preparations.

I tried the jacket on and, of course, had to buy it. It's comfortable, soft, easy-to-wear, and I love having the recipe close to my heart.

In the evening, dinner is served from 7:30 p.m. until 9 p.m., when the food is cleared away and there's a show--cabaret, comedy, music--check out the schedule on the Web site. The shop in the front room has an old-fashioned look, with shelves of Cibreo's home-made savory and sweet preserves and a selection of fine products--Sicilian salt, canned tuna, extra virgin, Lorenzo Villoresi's special bath salts made just for the Teatro.

And now, Fabio, not one to sit still, has designed a clothing line called Memoria di un cuoco, inspired by the comfort of his work clothes. I was incredulous and had to check it out. Fabio explained that his collection is permanent and classic, and won't ever change, although he will add new items. The jacket, cut like a chef's, is made of quality sweatshirt material, navy blue, with double row of covered buttons, and a recipe subtly printed in green inside. He demonstrated numerous ways of buttoning the jacket--there are 24, but you'll have to visit the Teatro to learn them all. The pants are comfortable khakis, with a black and white checked lining at the cuffs and inside pockets to evoke chefs' wear.

There's a tie--Fabio had a vision of it in a dream, (strange, since he's never worn one and it's not chefs' attire) it's black and seamless, with a diagonal stripe inside, and is reversible. There's also a t-shirt. I tried the jacket on and, of course, had to buy it. It's comfortable, soft, easy-to-wear, and I love having the recipe close to my heart.

The clothing line is currently sold only in the Teatro del Sale shop, which will probably go online in the fall. And Fabio's got a new cookbook, as unique as everything else he does: Come una preghiera, il cielo in terra ... I Dieci Commandamenti ("Like a prayer, heaven on earth ... The Ten Commandments") coming out in October. Stay tuned to the Web site for news.

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at www.faithwillinger.com.

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