Fio’s La Fourchette

Fiorenzo and Liselotte Antognini opened Fio’s La Fourchette in the Westroads Shopping Center, the Saint Louis Galleria's predecessor, in October of 1982.

Fio was born in Locarno, Switzerland in 1954. At the age of 15, he began studying the classic French approach to food preparation; he met his wife Lisa in a cooking school in Zurich. After they were married, the Antogninis moved from Switzerland to the United States, honing their culinary skills in the Hawaiian Islands and at resorts in Scottsdale, Vail and Las Vegas, before finally moving to St. Louis.

Fio’s La Fourchette was tucked away on the back side of the Westroads mall, behind a white-painted brick façade. The restaurant, decorated in peach tones and floral prints, had a small main dining room, seating 58, and a private dining room, seating 30. There was also a second-level lounge which overlooked the main dining room. The blue-tile and copper kitchen was visible to guests through a large window in the dining area. In front of the window were two fish tanks one fresh water, one salt where the night’s main course might be seen swimming.

Lisa managed the front of the restaurant and Fio stared in the kitchen. The menu, which changed frequently, was hand-printed by Lisa and offered an innovative blend of classic and nouvelle French cuisine.

Fio’s La Fourchette offered a standard a-la-carte menu, a “lite” menu (containing fewer than 750 calories) and a five or six course tasting menu. The latter included a choice of appetizer, second course, entrée, salad, dessert and coffee.
 

1985 Fio’s La Fourchette Menu
(click image to enlarge)

The portions on Fio's tasting menu were relatively small, but diners had the unique option of a second helping, often at the server's suggestion. This practice continued as the tasting menu evolved into set five or six course prix fixe menus, Fio's signature offering.
 

1990s Fio’s La Fourchette Menu
(click image to enlarge)

The Antogninis' unpretentious restaurant ranked with the very best in St. Louis. They set their standards high and met those standards with impeccable service, imaginative cuisine and a flexible menu. In 1985, Fio’s La Fourchette was chosen as one of the "Top 35 New Restaurant in America" by Esquire magazine.

Fio’s innovative prix fixe menus became legend. A World Seafood Celebration menu was offered in the spring and a Wild Game menu in the fall. The latter could include wild turkey, quail, wild duck, pheasant, partridge, wood pigeon, grouse, goose, caribou, elk, antelope, blue hare, reindeer, black bear, venison, moose, buffalo, rabbit, wild boar, rattlesnake, turtle and musk ox. There was an annual asparagus festival, with the vegetable offered in 20 different styles (including chocolate-covered), a soufflé festival and a Tribute to Down Under, featuring the cuisines of Australia and New Zealand.

Soufflés were Fio's signature dessert. Twenty-five flavors were rotated on the menu, with three soufflés featured each day as desserts or appetizers. Diners could order fruit flavors (such as lime, banana and orange), sweet flavors (such as chocolate-hazelnut, pistachio and caramel/white chocolate) and savory soufflés (such as one laden with mushrooms, garlic and Gruyere cheese). There was even a wild-game soufflé, made with venison, wild boar, pheasant and partridge.

In the fall of 1987, the Antogninis opened Fio’s Ocean Grill in the Saint Louis Galleria Atrium. The restaurant, which seated 120, was decorated in salmon and teal blue, with porthole-style mirrors and prints of boating scenes. The menu featured innovatively prepared fresh seafood.

Starters included scallops smoked in-house with a honey mustard sauce, oysters in mushroom caps with sun dried tomatoes and fresh herb butter, and a mussel and potato seafood chowder. For entrées, selections included poached Maine lobster on a bed of fresh papaya sauce, Pacific pink snapper atop leeks in a shallot sauce, and a hearty version of the club sandwich, made with shrimp and crabmeat.

The Oyster Bar, located just outside the main seating area, featured a dramatic ceiling-to-floor sand blown glass window with relief figures of ocean life and a large fresh water aquarium with rare tropical fish. The menu offered a variety of fresh oysters, cold seafood dishes and beverages, including beer and fine wines by the glass.
 

Fio Antognini and Gene Howard
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 10, 1988
Fio and Lisa Antognini in their kitchen at
Fio’s La Fourchette on Forsyth Boulevard

In March of 1994, Fio’s La Fourchette left the Saint Louis Gallery and moved to 7515 Forsyth Boulevard, in the corner of the old Famous-Barr annex, a space once occupied by the Leather Bottle restaurant. The new restaurant had a dining room seating 60, a private dining room seating 30, and a larger kitchen with state-of-the-art equipment. The new space was all on one level, with pale pink walls and low light that combined to create an attractive rosy glow.
 

The Antogninis closed their unique restaurant in 2001, but their unique approach to cuisine lives on. They now conduct special dinners, culinary tours and "sunset dining adventures" near Utah's Zion National Park. Fio and Lisa still cook occasional dinners in St. Louis both public and private.

"Fio and I were married in Zurich in a wonderful place called La Fourchette," Lisa once explained, "so our restaurant was named for sentimental reasons." There are many St. Louis diners who will forever be sentimental about Fio’s La Fourchette.

Fio and Lisa Antognini with Jonathan Parker, owner of Parker's Table in Richmond Heights, 2015.


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