The Sant’Ambrogio neighbourhood of Florence has lost its culinary soul with the death of Fabio Picchi, chef and owner of Cibrèo, aged 67.
Born in 1954, the food entrepreneur opened his restaurant Cibrèo around the corner from the Sant’Ambrogio market on September 8, 1979, focusing ever since on seriously local fare. The name says it all: purported to be a favourite of Catherine de’ Medici, cibrèo is a Tuscan recipe of chicken innards (giblets, liver and crest) cooked with egg. Picchi and his first wife, Benedetta Vitali, concentrated on dishes just like the eponymous recipe: simple, rustic Florentine fare done exquisitely well. Then, over the years, came Trattoria Cibrèo next door, which served similar dishes at more accessible prices, and Cibrèo Caffé across the street with a bistro and cerebral vibe in 1989. After separating from Vitali and meeting his second wife, the actress Maria Cassi, Teatro del Sale was added to the restaurateur’s flourishing Sant’Ambrogio empire in 2003 as a membership-based cultural club blending food and theatre. Picchi didn’t stop there, of course. During the Eighties and early Nineties, the chef spent time working in Japan, which he distilled to great acclaim in 2017 with his 16-seater “tosco-orientale” eatery, Ciblèo Tortelli e Ravioli, in via del Verrocchio. Feeling the need to shift the focus to the essence of his craft, he introduced Accademia Cibrèo to teach Tuscan cooking to professional chefs and amateur cooks, which was followed by C.Bio in 2017 as a grocery store in via della Mattonella selling organic ingredients, selected Italian produce, food-focused handicrafts and a delicatessen counter. And then, just a few months ago came Cibrèo’s first venture into the hotel world, with the inauguration of a restaurant in the glitzy surroundings of five-star luxury hotel Helvetia & Bristol, near piazza della Repubblica. He authored several books (Papale Papale, Firenze: Passeggiate tra cibo e laica civiltà, Senza vizi e senza sprechi, and I dieci comandamenti per non far peccato in cucina) and remained politically engaged throughout his life. His son, Giulio, is expected to continue the business, having taken over the management in recent months.
A 1994 article by Molly O’Neill in the New York Times perhaps sums up Fabio Picchi best of all: “Fabio Picchi…chef and owner of Cibreo restaurant in Florence waxes like a poet, cooks like a sorcerer and is, in every other observable way, irrepressibly Florentine.”
Grazie Fabio. Florence and food lovers around the world will miss you greatly.