Behind the Scenes (and Behind the Stove) at Fiorino

Franco Faggi’s cooking classes are a rare, coveted, super-local experience that Food Network junkies city-wide would freak out over, if word got out. Oops. Jen Lally’s photo essay leaves little to the imagination — including special off-menu items you can get here, if you know to ask for ’em. 

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If Franco Faggi’s charming Indian Queen Lane restaurant is a best kept secret in Philadelphia, then his intimate (and basically free) BYOB cooking classes are an even more guarded insider tip. Jen Lally languished on the Wait List for a year, until finally scoring spots for her and bestie Erin Ferry.

She’d heard from friends who’d gone before: wow this was an amazing experience. So she had to go, and take as many photos as she could while still paying attention plus hanging with Erin and also drinking wine. You’re welcome!

Enjoy Jen’s pics and her story, as told to East Falls Local…

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Franco’s class began about 9:30 in the morning — he greeted us with coffee while we all kind of said hello to each other.  He welcomed us all warmly to his tiny kitchen, where about a dozen of us were going to learn to make a menu of eggplant rolatini, gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce and a berry panna cotta for dessert.

A natural teacher, Franco encouraged us all to ask questions, and just go ahead and slow him down if he goes too fast. We were all invited to jump in at any time — if we wanted to just stand and watch, that was OK too.

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Three courses is a lot of cooking! We were on our feet for hours — I was glad I wasn’t in heels. I was really surprised by how simple the ingredients all were. For instance, I’d always assumed Franco’s gnocchi were made with cheese but nope. Just flour and potato — truly is all in the technique.

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Another surprise:  eggplant can be delicious without sauce & cheese slathered all over it. Without breading, even. Just dip floured slices in egg and fry till golden. So. Good.

Franco also demonstrated how to sharpen and care for knives, both with a block and with a stick (he strongly prefers the block). He also suggests boiling potatoes before you skin them, for the ideal texture when cooked.

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Eventually, wine bottles started popping open and people got chatty. I met lots of locals, quite a few for the first time which is weird cause my family has been here forever and it feels like I know everyone. Speaking of — turns out, one lady’s son played on the same EFSA baseball team my brother did, back in the day.

Another woman in class had never been to Fiorino’s before!

So finally it was time to eat, and we all moved into the dining room to be served as guests, now, this three-course meal we’ve made. As I said before, I really enjoyed the eggplant — great “naked” but amazing with Franco’s light & refreshing tomato sauce.  And his gnocchi, well… You know. Everyone knows.

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The panna cotta for dessert was so cool to make. I’d never cooked with vanilla pods and beans before, and Franco showed us how to steep them in cream, then add a little touch of Meyer lemon.

Class was technically BYOB but at some point Franco put out some bottles to compliment the food (and conversation). Can’t believe this class is FREE — well, Franco’s time is free. He only asks $10 per person to cover the cost of ingredients, and at the end of the season he donates any extra to local food banks.

His kitchen is very small so classes are limited to just like a dozen people. My name sat on the waiting list over a year before I got an email that a spot had opened up. Totally worth the wait, though. Erin and I highly recommend you ask him to put your name on Fall 2016’s Wait List right now. What a fantastic experience.

Meanwhile, here’s a final insider tip — two dishes that Franco doesn’t put on the menu, but you can order them and they are both fantastic:  tortellini with beef short rib and Limoncello cake.  You’re welcome (again).

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Jen Lally was born and raised in East Falls and so are her parents and their parents. Her mother’s maiden name is Dooney, and her parents still live in the Falls. Jen bought her own home here in 2009. For the last few years, you can catch Jen bartending at Cranky Joe’s (Saturdays, usually, stop in and say hi).

THANKS, JEN, FOR YOUR PICS & FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT!  As the weather gets nicer, Fiorino’s becomes one of the best patio dining spots you’ll ever enjoy — that corner of Krail & IQL is the perfect mix of architectural charm & people watching.

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Still time to win Dinner for Two at Fiorino’s from East Falls Forward. FREE to enter, just sign up here (winner announced at Thursday’s meeting).




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