How did the Fico journey begin?
Mirko Febbrile (MF): I’ve been in Singapore for more than eight years now. Nothing is truly like home, and in Singapore it was hard to find a place that truly showcased the diversity and complexity that you can see in Italy. We saw how the market was saturated with “nonna-esque” trattorias, showcasing a more antiquated side of Italy. On a personal note, it also felt like Singapore was also missing a spot where I could find true-blue authentic Italian food with no compromises, that was also accessible and fresh. That’s how the thought of starting Fico began—with our desire to plug that gap and to share a different side of modern Italy with Singapore.
For the menu itself, our starting point stemmed from “Cucina Povera”, a philosophy originating from southern Italy that adopts a waste-not, want-not approach using simple ingredients and techniques to produce bold, hearty flavours. Inspired by this, we wanted to create a menu that’s grounded in simplicity and seasonality, a menu that is accessible and also crazy delicious. And so every dish at Fico uses a maximum of three ingredients—we want to focus on the exceptional textures and flavours from our products, some of which we source directly from Puglia.
How was the process of building a business and team together?
MF: The F&B industry is very challenging, there are plenty of movements and changes all the time. And with Fico being my very first restaurant, I definitely harboured quite a bit of uncertainty when first starting off, even with great support from the Lo & Behold Group.
That said, we channelled this uncertainty into hard work, in choosing the right people, and building a foundation for Fico. Beyond our internal team, we also made extra care to work with partners that we knew were aligned with our vision and values. Locally, we worked with furniture-makers Roger&Sons to fashion dining tables out of felled trees, as part of their Local Tree Project—to us, this was one way to marry creativity with necessity, by taking a waste-not want-not approach inspired by Cucina Povera. And I can say that this truly paid off—the response to our concept has been great and it has been such a joy to work with such an amazing community, from my team, to our partners, suppliers, and of course our guests.
What does it take to be a creative unit?
MF: For us, being a creative unit starts from having the right people. Creatives know other creatives, right? From there, that’s how we get to know and bring in like-minded people, but at the same time, we’re quite a diverse bunch. Each of us bring different personal perspectives and life experiences to the table, we each come from different backgrounds and have our own stories to tell. And when we combine all those experiences, the different strengths that everyone brings to the table, that’s how we can come together to create magic. But creating “magic” doesn’t just happen out of thin air—there’s a whole process that we had to figure out and refine as a team in order to create those signature moments for our guests.
What are your year-end traditions or routines? What meaning do they hold for you?
MF: We’ll be spending our very first Christmas together this year! It’s so heartening to see our team growing closer, coming together as a family throughout just these few months. When coming up with a new year-end tradition for us, I was very inspired by my childhood and family back in Puglia.
My family has always been very close, we actually all live in the same building, so we see each other all the time. We’ve always had our meals and gatherings together, but Christmas time was always extra special—we’d always have a massive celebration, squeezing all 50 or more of us in my aunt’s living room, and everyone would bring their dining tables down, combining them into one huge, long table that we could gather and feast around.
That was actually one of the inspirations for Fico’s communal table, and I think it’s so apt that that’s where we’ll have our own team Christmas dinner this year! Each member of the team will prepare a dish for the dinner, and we’ve organised a gift exchange. It’s amazing how things come full circle and that I can bring some of my traditions from home to share with my team here in Singapore.
Photography JAYA KHIDIR
Art direction MARISA XIN