The phrase “farm to table” has become a buzz term in culinary circles. In recent years, restaurants have increased their emphasis on relationships with farmers, sometimes with menus that note specific purveyors or restaurant paraphernalia that offers a back-story for a producer.
For Allegria Restaurant’s Andreas Fischbacher, farm to table isn’t a marketing term. It’s a way of life.
Fischbacher grew up on a self-sustaining farm in Austria, where he became accustomed to honey from local beekeepers and fresh-cooked meals three times a day. Since 2011, he’s offered Carbondale residents and visitors a similar dinner experience, six days a week.
Although the restaurant’s Italian-European menu features staples that regular customers have come to expect, the specials are ever changing.
“It’s always evolving,” Fischbacher said. “It’s a moving, live organism.”
On a recent spring day, for example, Fischbacher was excited by heritage pork sausage and pork shoulder he’d brought in
“That’s going to go on the menu today,” he said. “What I have tomorrow? I don’t know. … We cook whatever the farmers bring us.”
Specials rely on what’s in season, so Fischbacher speaks about the season’s harvest with a sense of intimacy. He knows when to expect radishes from Sustainable Settings, and he plans a Carbondale salad with ingredients from near the Main Street restaurant. A dry year may mean fewer morels on the menu. But Fischbacher delights in riding his motorcycle from his Missouri Heights home to the restaurant, stopping for peaches and other produce on the way.
Fischbacher and his staff — whom he credits for the restaurant’s success — see this as an educational opportunity. Sometimes they will close the business to host a fundraiser for YouthEntity, for example. The youth program’s restaurant management and culinary arts participants will take over the restaurant’s kitchen and develop a hands-on understanding of the industry. Fischbacher also supports young, local farmers, and his own daughter — who is now a chef in Vienna — began learning during summers in her father’s kitchen.
“It is extremely important in many ways for the next generation,” Fischbacher said. “There are a lot of kids out there; they don’t even know where raspberries are from.”
Likewise, the restaurant’s ever-changing specials allow patrons to learn about area farmers and other purveyors. It’s all part of Allegria’s farmer-first mentality.
photos: Created by chef-owner Andreas Fischbacher, the Italian-European cuisine at Allegria features a few staples, but the heart of the menu is the specials, which are constantly changing based on what’s farm fresh and locally sourced.
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