Wolfgang Puck once said, “Italian food is all about ingredients and it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy.” It seems to me Chef Fiore Tedesco of contemporary Italian restaurant L’oca D’oro would agree with this statement. Moreover, he brings it to life.
If you aren’t sure how to pronounce the name L’oca D’oro, don’t stress out. You’re not the only one! Simply leave out the apostrophes and say “loca doro,” which means, “golden goose” in Italian. Without knowledge of the language, all Italian words sound like music to me. But L’oca D’oro actually has a sweet story behind it. The restaurant was named after Tedesco’s daughter, Lucinda. “I call her Lucy, Lucy Goose. She was born with blonde hair and I called her that since she was a baby.”
Food Inspired by Memories
Named the best new restaurant of 2016 by Texas Monthly and Austin Monthly, L’oca Doro presents one of the best examples of creative Italian food in Austin. In Tedesco’s kitchen, century-old traditions blend with contemporary techniques.
Given Tedesco’s Italian heritage–his grandparents immigrated to upstate New York from Naples–I expected to see many family recipes on the menu. Surprisingly, this has never been a goal for the chef, who believes the memory of the dish is what matters, not what it actually tasted like back in the day.
“It’s the way you remember it that ends up being more important. What I want is memory…I let that be the inspiration and then try to find a way to express it. That’s where all the kitchen as a team gets to use different experiences and techniques and create something new.”
While seeking out old family recipes is not a priority for Tedesco, his family’s love for food is the reason he’s in this business. He started shaping bread and making cheese at the age of 12 in the delis and bakeries opened by his uncles and cousins. What was a way to earn a little cash as a kid turned into a life-long passion.
Having traveled to every nook and cranny of his boot-shaped country, Tedesco has experienced first-hand how food is prepared in Italy. What fascinates him the most is how regions, sometimes located within 15 minutes of each other, have completely different cuisines. “They relate to each other as neighbors, but have different identities. Traditions within communities have grown so bright and rich, and yet unchanging, unflinching.”
Tedesco, for whom Italian food is a big part of his identity, sees Italian cuisine as warmer and more generous. And that’s what he tries to convey in his creations. Even the Italian style of dining, that takes a longer amount of time with countless courses arriving one after another, is embraced at L’oca D’oro. “I think there’s grace in that style of eating and tremendous majesty, and I want to allow people to experience it.”
Local Over Imported at L’oca D’oro
While many Italian restaurants make it a point to import ingredients from Italy, L’oca D’oro takes pride in sourcing most of its ingredients locally. Tedesco seems to be baffled by the fact that chefs boast about shipping olive oil or tomatoes from Italy. “I don’t feel good about food traveling over oceans. I don’t see the authenticity in it. I am more interested in supporting someone here.”
Ninety-eight percent of ingredients used in the L’oca D’oro kitchen come from Central Texas farms. The only exceptions are Pecorino and Grana Padano cheeses. This is how Tedesco makes certain he knows what goes into every dish. “I know the people who are producing [our] food. I have their ear and they have mine.”
Healthy Italian Food Is Possible
For Tedesco, sourcing ingredients locally is also a way to make sure the food he prepares is healthy. The phrases “Italian food” and “healthy” rarely come together in one sentence, but L’oca D’oro makes an honest attempt to change that. One of the main principles in the kitchen is to never use canned foods unless it was made in-house. Preparing food from scratch is another principle. Out of 18 cheeses served so far at L’oca D’oro, only two have been outsourced. One hundred percent of salumi is prepared in-house. Not to mention the pasta and bread are made from freshly milled grains.
Serving healthy food is so important to the chef, that when asked about future plans for L’oca D’oro, Tedesco named fully eliminating white flour as one of his priorities. Not only is Tedesco’s daughter the inspiration for the restaurant’s name, but she’s one of the reasons diners will find healthy food on the menu. “My daughter comes to eat three to four times a week. I want to make beautiful healthy food for her. I want to make beautiful healthy food for everyone. It’s something I feel proud of.”
Pillar of Austin’s Local Community
From the day the concept of L’oca D’oro was born, co-owners Fiore Tedesco and Adam Orman knew they wanted their restaurant to be located in a residential neighborhood and become a pillar of the local community. A restaurant you could walk or bike to. A restaurant with a playground outside.
It took six months to find the right space at the Mueller development. Orman says Mueller wasn’t finished at the time, with their building still under construction. But they knew instantly it was a perfect location.
Orman mentions the restaurant had wonderful support from local community, with many people coming on a regular basis for date night and family dinners. “They meet their neighbors. There were so many times when I got to introduce people who live next door to each other. So satisfying!”
Next time you take your kids to Thinkery, visit Mueller farmers’ market or have a stroll around Mueller Lake, stop by the restaurant with the romantic Italian name for a board of mouth-watering cheese and salumi, a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine. Happy hour is served Monday and Wednesday through Friday from 5-6:30 p.m. Closed Tuesday.
1900 Simond Ave. – Website
@thefoodiemiles wants to know:
What’s your favorite Italian dish?