On August 17th, 2016, I drove out to Metairie, Louisiana to revisit my old friend, Great Chef Goffredo Fraccaro, now 91 years old, who was the sixth chef we ever taped for our first Great Chefs of New Orleans series. Chef Goffredo was born in Genoa, Italy in 1925. His father was Swiss/German and his mother was from Genoa. Think about it! 1925, the world was at peace, and Germany and Europe were recovering from WW I. Fifteen years later, with still no running water, let alone electricity, Goffredo, at the age of 15, was assigned by his mother to help cook for their large family. In 1942, at age 17, he was drafted as a cook into the Italian Navy. A year later, as WWII turned, the Germans took over the Italian Navy, and Goffredo, who spoke both German and Italian because of his parents, was elevated in the kitchen ranks of the Navy to Chef. After the war, he worked in the kitchens of various cruise ships, but always wanted to travel to the United States.
In 1961, he was aboard a ship that was to come to New Orleans, but it docked instead at Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, Vince Distefano, who was tired of getting busted in New Orleans for card games and betting the horses, bought a 7-acre fishing lodge on Airline Highway outside of Baton Rouge beyond the long arm of the law, and opened his betting parlor. There were so many cars out front that travelers thought it was a restaurant, so they re-opened it as a restaurant, hired Chef Goffredo, and renamed the betting parlor the Village Restaurant.
Nine years later in 1969, Chef Goffredo wanted to move to New Orleans and open his own restaurant. Il Ristorante Tre Fontane (The Restaurant of the Three Fountains) opened in Exchange Alley in the French Quarter (now the location of the Pelican Club). It was not successful for several reasons, but three years later in 1972, he decided to move out to the suburbs and opened La Riviera Restaurant. The Great Chefs television crew showed up there in 1981 to tape Chef Fraccaro for their first Great Chefs television series on PBS called Great Chefs of New Orleans I. He was featured in several other Great Chefs shows, including Great Italian Chefs. In early 2000, after his sous chef, Arthur, passed away, Chef Goffredo sold La Riviera to his nephew and it closed permanently in 2005, after taking on water following Hurricane Katrina.