Mirko Febbrile is as ambitious and plucky as they come. As a result, he is perched on a chair in a construction site that will soon be his new restaurant, Fico, with a squawking chicken on his back. He turns to peck the chicken next to him with a humourless gaze, before he bursts out laughing at the absurdity of it all. We are at the shoot for this particular story, and just two days prior, he had gamely convinced us that having a chicken on set would add to the conceptual nature of our photos. Febbrile was right—we scrolled through the final photos after we were done, and nodded in agreement that our unconventional decision had paid off.
Perhaps it is this exact boldness that has landed Febbrile at this exact juncture. Hailing from Puglia, Italy, the 31-year-old is just weeks away from opening his first restaurant amid the lush greenery at East Coast Park, in partnership with The Lo & Behold Group. Fico is a combination of Febbrile’s worlds—of his joyful childhood and whom he used to be, and the person he is now.
“It’s 80 percent of my past and 20 percent of who I am today. I grew up surrounded by positive vibes and authenticity, and many people having fun at the table,” he explains. ‘We could talk about anything from money to religion, and it was always around food. It fascinated me.” He adds with a pensive smile: “So, it’s about going back to basics and enjoying the simplicity of savouring the moment. I want it to be a community, not a restaurant. It is a place where people can get together to spend time and feel free to express themselves.”
“I want it to be a community, not a restaurant. It is a place where people can get together to spend time and feel free to express themselves”
Febbrile recounts the days of his youth, when he spent time with his extended family at his grandmother’s house and was surrounded by food. He would play hide-and-seek with his cousins and find a safe spot under the kitchen table where his grandmother would be rolling pasta. “It was a beautiful feeling having my memories of play alongside food, which is a big part of my culture,” he says. He chatters gleefully about how freshly baked bread and pasta were some of his favourite things to eat back in the day.
While most chefs enroll in culinary school first with hopes of making it in the industry, Febbrile’s foray into food was intrinsically organic, and almost accidental. As an eight-year-old, he started to look up dessert recipes online and experiment whenever he was home with his younger brother. “I made cakes as it was easy because a cake recipe is scientific—all you need to do is follow the steps. The funny thing was that in my pantry, I would always be missing many ingredients for the specific recipes, like orange, flour or baking soda,” he says.
“I would ask for things from my neighbours—two eggs, one orange, one lemon and 500 grams of flour, for example. Imagine the number of things my mum had to return!” Febbrile continues with a glint in his eye. “My mum would then meet up with all the ladies in the building and they would ask, ‘By the way, when do you intend to return our 20 eggs or 2kg of flour’?”
To further develop his love for food, the spunky boy then went on to work at a bar in Puglia at the age of 12, where he was paid in mortadella paninis and Coke. He also enrolled in culinary school for five years, before he became tired of the lack of progression. Febbrile decided learning languages in university was his way out, while supplementing his time with a three-year stint at McDonald’s to improve his mastery of languages. Now, with eight years in Singapore under his belt, Febbrile is ready for his next chapter after his last role as chef de cuisine at one-Michelin-starred Braci.
At Fico, which is Italian for ‘fig’, every dish is created with three to four ingredients. It is fashioned after a masseria, which is a fortified farmhouse built in the 16th century in Puglia. Masserias are typically expansive and Fico is divided into three parts: a kiosk, restaurant and an outdoor area. With its stunning location by the beach, the kiosk is a clever choice to cater to all parkgoers. You’ll find fresh takeaway items here, such as Febbrile’s Pasta In The Hands, a generous ball of pasta cooked by doubling its sauce, before it is crumbed and deep-fried to perfection so you can eat it on the go. He will also serve burrata ice cream with tomato jam and strawberries, as well as piping hot panzarottis, a savoury hot pocket stuffed with mozzarella and tomato, or minced meat.
Inside the restaurant, Fico’s pasta counter breaks barriers and encourages conversations between chefs and customers, while its communal table in the centre are ideal for groups. The space is open and airy, swathed in white and earthy tones. Terracotta tiles, ceiling lights and plates are imported from Puglia, furniture is custom-made by Roger&Sons using fallen trees, and bougainvillea installations are a collaboration with This Humid House.
Fresh bread is served, baked in fig leaves as a nod to the restaurant’s name, alongside two specially curated olive oils flown from Puglia. Expect a varied selection of food to share, which includes seafood, meat, cold cuts, cheeses and pastas—from the familiar linguine alle vongole to an orecchiette with turnip tops and anchovies, a less familiar but classic Puglian dish. Febbrile aims to be sustainable with his ingredients, choosing only to work with small suppliers to reduce carbon footprint. Your meal ends with a daily dessert trolley, stuffed to the brim with decadent tarts and pies for diners to choose from. “The idea is to have a lot of things on the table, where you can try most of the menu without feeling too full or like you’ve spent a fortune,” Febbrile sums up.
The masseria is a prelude of what is to come with his collaboration with The Lo & Behold Group, as they are planning a fine-dining concept to be launched next year. “When I joined them, I started to work on the fine-dining concept,” he says, indicating that an upscale restaurant is usually the route most chefs take first. “But because we found this great spot at East Coast Park, we decided to go ahead with this casual restaurant first. I’m greatly inspired by it, so it doesn’t matter which comes first.”
Photography Sayher Heffernan
Grooming Lydia Thong/Makeup Entourage using Makeup Forever and Keune Haircosmetics
Special thanks to SG Polish Chicken