Chef Goffredo Fraccaro embraced life with a joy he simply couldn’t keep to himself.
He incorporated it into his cooking, notably in his best-known and most influential restaurant, La Riviera in Metairie. He expressed it through his favorite cause, Chefs’ Charity for Children. And he shared it through life stories from his native Italy to his adopted home of New Orleans, all told in a gregarious tone and a heavy Italian accent.
“He could always tell a story that you had never heard before, he had done so much,” said his grandson Michael Jagot. “He was a life force and he inspired so many people to start cooking.”
Fraccaro died on Tuesday, January 11 at the age of 96. Jagot said Fraccaro struggled with several health issues before succumbing to an illness at Kenner’s Ochsner Medical Center.
Born in Genoa, Italy in 1926, Fraccaro has always said he cooked all his life, including a stint in the Italian Navy during World War II and later in the Merchant Navy. He was working on an Italian ship when he first set eyes on New Orleans and decided he wanted to make the city his home.
“The way New Orleans is organized, the tight-knit communities, it felt like home,” his grandson said. “He loved life here.”
He arrived in Louisiana in 1960, and by 1964 he was chef at Baton Rouge’s Italian restaurant, The Little Village.
He then moved to New Orleans, where he opened an ambitious French Quarter restaurant called Il Ristorante Tre Fontane, which was described as “the city’s first great Italian restaurant” in the book “Lost Restaurants of New Orleans by Tom Fitzmorris and Peggy. Scott Laborde. This closed after a few years, but his next restaurant, La Riviera, would enjoy lasting success.
Here, Fraccaro brought many traditional Italian dishes to New Orleans, serving them alongside an upscale take on Creole-Italian cuisine that would set a standard for years to come. His crab ravioli was a signature dish.
It was during this time that the Italian government made him a knight, or cavalier, in recognition of his culinary achievements, one of Fraccaro’s proudest accomplishments.
The Riviera was ruined by flooding from Hurricane Katrina and never reopened.
But Fraccaro maintained close ties with others in the field, especially those he joined each year at Chefs’ Charity for Children, a fundraiser for St. Michael’s Special School.
“Everything I do is out of love, and that’s what it was always about,” Fraccaro said of his commitment to the event.
From its inception, the event brought together culinary luminaries and Fraccaro reveled in the community and purpose they shared.
“We have – in Italian, we say, cameratismo – the camaraderie, this good feeling of being together,” Fraccaro said in a 2017 interview. “All of us chefs, we have this feeling.”
Fraccaro was predeceased by his 69-year-old wife, Maria, and by his granddaughter, Donna Jagot. He is survived by his daughter Maura and his grandson.
Visitation will be held at Jacob Schoen & Son Funeral Home, 3827 Canal Street, January 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., followed immediately by a funeral service.
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