Fausto, a new restaurant in the lobby of the Contemporary Arts Center, is the latest offering from the Ferrari brothers — Tony and Austin Ferrari — and their expanding local food service empire. The California-meets-Queen City outlet opened in July, fresh on the heels of their Camp Washington coffee shop, Mom ‘n ‘em; though the timing was unintentional.
“It’s been nuts,” Tony says. “We’ve been nonstop the last couple months — all day, every day, basically.”
The magnetic cult of personality Tony and Austin have in town is, luckily, warranted; their passion for food and hospitality is the real thing. The brothers love people. Patrons float in and out of the lobby at the CAC regularly, sometimes in groups, sometimes individually. The brothers engage fully, because Fausto, for them, is about more than just being a restaurant.
“For us, it’s not about making money,” Austin says. “It’s about serving a perfect product, having great service, hospitality, good mood, you get this great meal and ambiance and people are like, ‘I’ve never had this before. I’m going to come back. And I’m going to tell my friends.’ ”
The attention to detail on the Fausto menu is impeccable. The brothers use only locally sourced products — Austin says Tony will visit local farmers’ markets personally, two or three times a week, to get the freshest ingredients — and they recycle and partner with GoZERO, a local food compost courier, so no scrap of food left on a plate goes to waste.
The menu is contemporary and upbeat and honestly feels like the culinary equivalent of the light that streams into Fausto’s seating area through the CAC’s massive panes of glass. A heightened brunch, lunch or dinner experience, for sure — not many places are serving trout roe on potatoes — but one that safely resists pretension.
“We’re in a contemporary art museum. We have to do something that matches that concept. Fortunately, we were actually excited because we want to do that type of food anyway,” Tony says. “Clean lines, clean food, clean design; same has to happen with your food.”
Tony describes Fausto’s food as “California cuisine” with splashes of citrus and extra-virgin olive oil, not full of fat or butter.
“That stuff weighs you down. We want people to leave here energized. It feels good to take beautiful produce from someone, cook it well, and give it to people who actually care about it,” he says.
Breakfast features several egg and toast options, a chia seed pudding and that aforementioned trout roe, which is served on the cleverly named “potatoes and eggs” crème fraîche.
For patrons familiar with the Ferrari brothers’ Camp Washington joint, Mom ‘n ‘em, you’ll be pleased to know they serve Deeper Roots coffee here, too.
The lunch menu has plenty of light and crisp salads and sandwiches. But dinner offerings feel more involved. There is a three-course selection for $39, or several individual entrées (called “attractions” on their menu), appetizers (“beginnings”), pasta and dessert (“endings”).
The chicken salad is perhaps the best of the salads and sandwiches, at least in my pragmatic mind, because it marries the two in one great offering. “The tarragon really changed the game here” is an actual note I wrote down on my phone after I bit into the sandwich and tried to pinpoint the sharp, fresh herbiness that elevated the whole shebang. It’s served on Allez bread, with, as I also noted, “Really nice butter lettuce.” (Though a side dish of some kind would have been nice.)
On another visit, I took a server’s hearty recommendation and tried the grain salad. The server also suggested I add bacon. She was right. The bacon was chopped in what my notes call “nice little chunky, fatty squishes,” and the contrast between its warmth and the cold grain was very enjoyable. Hunks of fresh corn kernels, a smattering of pickled red onions, a few heirloom tomatoes and a tarragon-y dressing rounded out the very filling salad.
Local really is the name of the game for most of Fausto’s offerings. Suppliers include Dogwood Farm for most of Fausto’s greens and vegetables, pastries from North South Baking Co. in Covington and Allez for all the bread except the English muffins, which are from Sixteen Bricks. Even the decor is local.
Fausto at the CAC is delineated from the rest of the lobby by a sculptural installation of sorts, composed of black milk crates. It hovers on the edge of twee, but the earnestness with which Tony and Austin describe the project softened even my skeptical eyes.
The brothers took the issue of making the distinction between what a lobby café is and what Fausto is — a separate restaurant entity altogether — to some artist pals. Joe Girandola and Robert Probst came up with the crate solution, one that works particularly well because you can see through the crates, they’re sustainable and they were used to build a wine station and a host stand. Even the dishware has been carefully considered.
“All our plateware is custom. We have a custom Ferrari brothers plate line you can get it for your home (or restaurant),” Tony says. “We partnered up with Breakfront Pottery, amazing people in Price Hill, and we worked with them for a couple months designing the plateware, the color, the feel.”
If it feels like Fausto is essentially a one-stop shop, well, that was intentional, too.
“We think of Fausto as kind of like a factory, or a manufactory. We’re here for all your needs throughout the entire day,” Austin says.
“You can come here at 8 a.m., get a cup of coffee, and a croissant or egg sandwich. You can come at 10:30 (a.m.), get an elegant lunch with your family, get some roasted chicken, side of potatoes. You can come for a very quick lunch. You can take it to your office — you can get your office catered by us. You can come at 4 o’clock for a bottle of wine, some cheese, charcuterie. You can come at 5 or 6 o’clock for a beautiful tasting menu. It’s really leaving it up to the customer to make it happen for themselves.”
Fausto, 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, faustoatthecac.com