Young and Hungry

Enzo Fargione Fired from Teatro Goldoni

enzo pic

Enzo Fargione, the chef who put an antiquated Teatro Goldoni back on the culinary map, was fired from his job earlier this month after owner Michael Kosmides allegedly told the toque that he was "just too expensive," according to the dismissed cook.

Teatro's owners, says Fargione, plan to turn the K Street institution into a more informal trattoria. The first step in the process was apparently firing the guy who had created what is possibly the best chef's table in the D.C. area.

According to Fargione, Kosmides approached him earlier about the possibility of converting Teatro Goldoni into a trattoria but did not indicate it was a done deal. Then about a week later, Kosmides fired the chef and gave Fargione approximately 20 minutes to gather his books and tools and leave via the back door without saying goodbye to either his kitchen staff or his fans in the dining room.

"I was left without even a crumb of gratitude," Fargione says, "and that kind of hurts my feelings."

The chef was also left without a severance package. Fargione says that, according to his five-year contract with the Teatro owners, he was due, if terminated, a severance package worth two years of his base salary. He was also due a 90-day written notice before any firing. Fargione says he received neither but hopes the attorneys now involved will work out a deal to everyone's agreement.

Kosmides says that the firing had nothing to do with Fargione's food costs or expenses and everything to do with customer feedback. "Our customers weren't responding to the changes he made in the menu," the owner says. "Our sales declined significantly since he changed the menu and concept."

The decline, Kosmides adds, started from the moment Fargione revamped Teatro, despite all the good press he received. "We were as surprised as any," he says. "I would have loved for it to work out."

Kosmides describes Fargione as a "genius chef suited for 40 seats," not a sizable space like Teatro, which needs a menu that will draw large crowds night after night. In this down economy, the days of $40 entrees are over, he says, maybe forever.  Customers who will pay that kind of money are "few and far between," says Kosmides who is indeed revamping Teatro's menu to include more pasta plates, smaller plates, and half-portions.

As far as Fargione's abrupt firing and hasty exit, Kosmides thought that they had parted on good terms. He says his former chef was asked to leave quickly but had returned to the restaurant the next day. And what about the severance package? Kosmides says it only kicks in if the owners decide to exercise the non-compete-clause in the Fargione's contract, which they haven't.

Which brings us to Fargione's future. He's currently lining up investors and, starting next week, scouting locations for his own place. He envisions a restaurant that's an expansion of his chef's table, with two separate tasting menus and a glass-enclosed wine cellar with a private dining space. "Something like Komi," Fargione says.

He hopes to have all the financing lined up by the end of April, if not a location by then. "I'd like to think that my best is yet to come," he says.

"Maybe this is a blessing," Fargione says. "Maybe it was time for me to move on."

  • WaPoster

    Oh great, another under capitalized amateur planning to offer an expanded expanse of drech! Funny how the good restaurants, though maybe down, seem to be doing okay.
    Tried to get a 8 o'clock reservation lately? People will pay if the fare warrants the tariff and what passes for service in this town is even mediocre.

    My guess is this jerk had allowed the joint to circle the drain for too long so all that was left to respond to the new menu was a nest of barflies. That and some leftovers from the Phyllis Richmond days when the mark of quality was judged from how much free coffee yenta hags were allowed to swill after splitting a dinner.

    I wish the chef well but it sounds like his vision his long on gimmicks.

  • Meatballs

    The above sounds like an angry post from one of the owners who got caught in dishonest wrong doing and trying to attack the chef's reputation and future plans in order to save face.
    What a shame!!! I will never set foot in that restaurant again

  • Ktone

    Can employers get out of liability of legal and binding contracts this easy? About integrity?

  • Mastic23

    I know the owner well from the club days .......he is a douche bag, no morals not a good person

  • http://www.billiardtablelight.net/ Jack

    Hey. Thanks for this post. I cruise alot of blogs just to see what I can find. I liked this write up you did and was just wondering if you have a subscriber page so I can link to it so I can read it at a later date? I did not see one - am I just overlooking it?

    Jack

  • If it walks like a duck

    I'd like to give him a severance package -- what a stud!

  • Hess14

    Another sad story in the restaurant business.
    You have a financial crisis in your hands? Easy! Fire the talent who made it all possible. Screw him out of his contract and mock him for everyone to see.
    This person Kosmides does not seem to be either too honest nor too bright

  • Consweet

    Both my husband and I love this man, chef and friend.
    We wish him great luck for the future as we know it will be a shining one.
    Need to find a new place for lunch now!

  • Slivert

    Don't know the facts, but the chef was the only reason I kept going to the restaurant. Bad business decision to let him go if you ask me.

  • OTBerbur

    I read this story with mixed emotions. On the one hand, the manner in which the discharge was carried out appears entirely callous. On the other, the owners' desire for a change in direction may not be entirely unwarranted. We had dinner at Teatro Goldoni for a special occasion on a Saturday night in December -- when the place was two-thirds empty. While the cooking was very good to outstanding, the overall experience lacked the awe-inspiring quality of DC's top restaurants; I felt if we were spending that much money again, there were better places to go. When one is charging top dollar, there is little room for error, and discordant notes such as pedestrian desserts, a rather garishly decorated room, and third-rate Italian-language rock blaring over the sound system loom larger than they would at a trattoria.

  • No one

    We will all miss this great person.
    It's not the same without you Chef.
    They told us not to discuss or talk with anyone...... I am not, but we all know the real story and must adapt

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  • Gtwner

    It sounds like Jonathan Umbel's brother! Another douch bag in the buisness!
    Seems that DC is full of them! Good luck Chef...

  • Nicky

    I am eager to see what the new menu will look like and how the owner anticipates to fill the huge gap the chef left
    Teatro will be out of business by summer time or it will turn into an afterhour madness club with fast food rated eatery concept in a fine dining setting.
    This move tops my list of most stupid things to do in 2010

  • Marykay77

    I was there for dinner on Saturday with my husband
    The dining room looked like a funeral procession of mourning servers. There was no bit to it
    The maitre d' older gentleman with white hair was as rude as he could be with the party that was sat before us as well.....bad day or poor customer service?
    The food looked and tasted like a photobrushed postcard of Teatro's better days: mediocre in taste and rough in execution
    The pasta was very good.
    On our way out a disco dance music from the 80's started playing full blast: 8:35 pm
    Is this restaurant really turning into a disco type gathering place for the youngsters? They told me a new menu will be starting soon: do not count on my vote for your re election

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  • Roberto

    Lol, Enzo what goes around comes around. What don't you tell them about the severance packages you gave your former employees when you were running Il Radicchio with Donna? All I can say is, you had it coming. You could be a great Chef, but you're still a douche.

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  • http://dcjbakhtar@aol.com V

    I know the owner Michael Kosmides and the people above are accurate in their description of him. A total douche and dumb ass. This guy is a total weasel

  • An Old Friend…not

    I agree with Roberto. How about all those bounced checks down at Atrium in Florida? Let's not forget you blaming your staff for your downfall, when it was the rampant money grabbing on a daily basis...

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