For Iacopo Falai, owner and chef of Falai, Falai Panetteria and Caffe Falai, passion for good food is most evident in the details. Iacopo brings his natural sense of style and a pastry chef’s love of precision to every aspect of his restaurants. The result is much like Falai himself: inviting, seamless and effortlessly chic.
Iacopo’s pull to his profession came with his earliest memory. His father, who died before he was born, owned a pastry shop in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence called Falai. The dream of opening his own eponymous restaurant became a life-long pursuit for Iacopo. He began at Arte Bianca in Torino, Italy, where he found his steady hand and keen eye for precision were well suited to pastry. He moved on to intensive chocolate lessons at Castalimenti in Brescia before returning to Florence to join three-star Michelin Enoteca Pinchiorri. As executive pastry chef, Iacopo he had a chance to focus on his first love, Italian breads.
After four years at Enoteca Pinchiorri, Iacopo wanted to challenge himself by training in France, the unofficial mecca for pastry chefs. He started at three-star Michelin Michel Bras in Lagouille, where he refined his bread skills and learned the importance of weighing. To this day, Iacopo believes that a proper scale is a chef’s most useful tool. He then spent two years as a chocolate chef at Michel Belin, a small pastry shop in Albi, France. While there, he collaborated with the chocolate artists at Fauchon Paris to develop new techniques in chocolate making.
With French experience under his belt, Iacopo decided he was ready for an even grander stage: New York City. He joined Sirio Maccioni as executive pastry chef of Le Cirque 2000. He welcomed the challenge of New York’s most discerning palates and unusual requests, including a six-foot tall model of the Eiffel tower made entirely of chocolate. Beyond the kitchen, he learned from Sirio the importance of the details, from remembering every guest’s and purveyor’s name to enjoying the every day experiences of running a restaurant.
Longing for a stronger tie to the Italian community, he joined Bob Giraldi and Luigi Commandatore as executive chef of BREADTribeca. Running a kitchen for the first time, Iacopo and his efforts helped earn the restaurant two stars from The New York Times in September 2003.
At Falai, Iacopo has created a menu that shows the progress of his career, combining the traditional Italian dishes of his childhood with the innovative techniques he learned as a pastry chef. Its success allowed Iacopo to open Falai Panetteria and Caffe Falai, where he indulges his love of making bread and pastries in casual, open-all-day spots.
Iacopo makes everything in-house, believing that only when a chef has direct connection with his materials will guests be able to taste the love and passion that went into them. He ensures these feelings run deep in every dish at his restaurants.