Spring Place may be a members-only workplace, but upstairs, deep in the belly of the restaurant, there’s a chef making it a culinary destination. We first met Executive Chef Fabio Bano when we were there recently with Francesco Missoni while collaboratively cooking recipes from The Missoni Cookbook. We quickly learned that Bano, part of the opening team at Spring Place, curates the club’s culinary program, which is largely inspired by farm- to-table concepts and the traditions and recipes of some of the countries facing the Mediterranean—particularly southern Italy, Spain, and Greece. Whitewaller caught back up with Bano to see where his culinary journey began and how it has evolved since, why he has a healthy, home-cooked approach to food today, and what dishes on the menu are not-to-miss right now.
WHITEWALLER: Tell us a bit about your background, leading up to directing the kitchen at Spring Place:
FABIO BANO: I received my training at the prestigious IPSSAR Culinary Institute in San Pellegrino Terme, Italy, and began my professional career at 16 by working with Italy’s elite chefs—Pietro Leemann, Antonio Ghilardi, and Giuliano Pellegrini. I spent my formative years learning from the chefs of esteemed hotels throughout Italy and Europe, such as the Hotel Gallia Gran Baita and Club Hotel Baja Sardinia.
I then moved to San Francisco, during the height of the fusion cuisine boom, to work with Donnie Masterson, and was a part of the opening team of Azie—a French- Asian fusion restaurant. I was tremendously influenced by, and began to partake in, the farm-to-table culture, which provided a fresh new approach to my culinary background.
Afterward, I moved to New York, working under Danny Silverman and Danny Meyer at Union Square Café, then on to running the kitchen of Giorgio Armani’s flagship restaurant, Armani Ristorante 5th Avenue. I worked closely with Mr. Armani and participated in many prestigious global events and collaborated with the four Giorgio Armani Restaurants around the world in an event called “A World Journey: Four Chefs from Four Corners.”
WW: Tell us a bit about where you’re from, and what kind of cooking techniques you learned growing up that help you today.
FB: I am from Bergamo, a city northeast of Milan in the Lombardy region, with scenic views over vineyards and the southern plains right through to the Alps. It is a splendid city that abounds in rustic local specialties, fine dining, and fantastic local wines. Bergamo is a mandatory addition for food lovers traveling in north Italy with a very high concentration of great restaurants. It is a classic cuisine of its own, with many specialties such as polenta taragna, casoncelli, risotto, and brasato—a red-wine-braised beef. Growing up in a country side of the town allowed me to be in touch with foraged produce and free- range animals. Techniques I was exposed to—classic roasting, braising, and slow cooking—I still love to use today, and gain pleasure from starting a preparation from scratch.
WW: What kind of cuisine is at Spring Place? What do you aim to cook there?
FB: The cuisine approach is fresh and harmonious. I select the best ingredients, process them as little as possible to emphasize their flavor, and serve them in a very simple way. All the food is home cooked; handcrafted pastas are made with as little gluten as possible, the vegetables are all organic (locally foraged when possible), the meat grass fed, and fish are wild, the bread made fresh every day using ancient grains and einkorn flour.
My goal at Spring is to offer food that can be consumed every day and try to educate the members with genuine, seasonal, clean eating.
WW: Tell us about how you change the menu. Is it weekly, monthly, seasonally?
FB: We change the menus twice every season, so eight times a year. If busy times allow, even more frequently. It is important for my chefs and I to stay in touch with the produce and ingredients seasonally, and nowadays seasons are changing more frequently.
WW: Spring Place is a members-only working space. Does cooking for a more regular community change the way you cook, or prepare a menu?
FB: Absolutely, yes. On one side, I miss the thrill of cooking for different guests every day in restaurants open to the public. On the other side, cooking for members allows me to create different dishes and have feedback on the dish almost right away. People stop me around the building and give me their opinion on what they’ve had. It creates a sort of intimacy that is really the idea behind a co- working space. It also allows me to spoil the members, as I know most of them.
WW: What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
FB: My favorite dishes from the spring menu are green asparagus “al carbone” that are cooked on live charcoal, served with a milk-Parmigiano foam; creamy burrata with crispy zucchini blossoms and spring vegetable caponata; the ravioli of nettles and wild herbs with walnut pesto; and the Etrurian soup, an ancient grains soup with all the spring beans and peas.
WW: When you’re not in the kitchen, where in New York do you like to eat?
FB: I am always looking for new restaurants to go to, but my preferences fall into Japanese omakase places or small Italian hidden gems. Some of my favorites are O Ya, Sushi Ishikawa, Sushi Ginza Onodera, I Sodi, and l’Artusi.