Chef Marco Vico's Cafe Vico Ristorante in Fort Lauderdale is everything you would expect in a family business. With him overseeing the kitchen and his wife, Eclair, welcoming you as you walk through the door, you can't help but feel like you've walked into a supersized version of their dining room.
New Times had a chance to sit with Chef Marco and lean how this Brazilian-born restaurateur with a strong Italian heritage makes sure his restaurant stays ahead of the curve.
Cafe Vico Ristorante is one of 40 restaurants participating in New Times' food and wine event, Pairings, on Thursday, September 16.
New Times: Please tell us how you got your start?
Marco Vico: I am third-generation Italian, Brazilian-born, who developed a passion for food early on. I moved to New Jersey in my 20s out of need and was taken in by an Italian family from Salerno who owned a restaurant in East Rutherford. Sorento, as it was called, was a family business, and I started working there as a dishwasher. They quickly moved me up through the kitchen, taught me some good "old time" Italian specialties, and I became the sous chef working alongside the son.
What brought you to South Florida?
I always say that being Brazilian, moving to New Jersey was a need and moving to Florida was an option. Like many, I was drawn by the weather, the water, and quality of life. So when my wife and I decided we were in a position to open our own place, we made our way down here.
Vico's Cafe is a family business as well. Do any of your family members work here?
My wife, Eclair, has always been by my side. She greets the guests, and together we try to make sure everyone feels like they are at home. I also have two daughters who worked here when they were growing up, but they have since married and moved on. Today, a few nephews work as waiters, so there is always that good family feeling.
What inspires you to get up and keep going?
Everyone says this, but I like what I do and have a true passion for my business. There is nothing more rewarding than creating a dish and taking it to the table to see guests enjoy it. I am like an artist who creates a piece of work only to see people's look of pleasure on their face. It's very satisfying.
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Who have you always wanted to break bread with?
I would love to meet and eat with Emeril LaGasse. He's creative and has a Portuguese-Italian background, so I would love to cook for him and have him try my dishes.
Do you cook at home?
No, my wife usually cooks at home. She makes good, simple Brazilian dishes like feijoada. At home, the kitchen is all hers.
Tomorrow, Chef Marco will share with us some insights on Cafe Vico, how the restaurant stays current, and what's in store for years to come.