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Chef Chat, Part I: Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio of Sabetta Café & Wine Bar

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You may recognize Chef Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio's name from his stint at Simposio Restaurant. Back in November 2009, we visited Simposio and Chef Palazzo-Giorgio for a Fall Wine Tasting featuring the restaurant's new Southern Italian dishes. Palazzo-Giorgio had been there for about two months at the time of the tasting. However, a short time later, he left Simposio to open his restaurant, Sabetta Café & Wine Bar.

Chef Palazzo-Giorgio is a first-generation Italian-American who grew up cooking with his mother and grandmother. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park and has worked in both Europe and the United States.

Opening Sabetta, named after his mother, has been a life-long goal for Chef Palazzo-Giorgio. A devoted father, Palazzo-Giorgio knew opening a restaurant would be a 24- hour job and wanted to wait until his kids were grown. When we visited Chef Palazzo-Giorgio, he was back in the kitchen making homemade sausage for the dinner service.

Eating Our Words: What are your goals with Sabetta?

Chef Palazzo-Giorgio: There are a lot of good Italian restaurants in Houston. However, a lot of them are Americanized Italian food. I want to bring traditional food from Italy to Houston. I understand this can be a risky move, but I have a vision for this restaurant. My family is from Italy, and this is the food I grew up with.

EOW: Can you give us some examples of this type of traditional cooking?

Palazzo-Giorgio: We don't over-sauce or over-dress our dishes. I like my customers to be able to taste the ingredients. For example, we don't use salad dressing. All of our salads are dressed with olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper, and complimentary herbs. That way, you can taste the flavor of the fresh salad greens. We also have a white fish that we coat in fresh breadcrumbs, olive oil, garlic and parsley.

EOW: Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Palazzo-Giorgio: My mother has been my biggest inspiration. I've been cooking since I was 9-years-old, and she really encouraged me. My mother loved to entertain and cook for people. I remember how excited she used to be with all the preparation.

Check back soon as Palazzo-Giorgio talks more about his influences and what his plans are for the restaurant.

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