Fiero Italian Café and Bakery has brought a bit of the old country to San Luis Obispo.
Launched just weeks ago by Scott Liddi with the support of several other culinary colleagues, the tiny cafe may be a bit hidden, but the big tastes on its simple menu are worth the effort.
It’s nestled amid several industrial buildings off lower Broad Street on Fiero Lane, toward the back left of its complex.
A graduate of Cal Poly with a degree in electrical engineering, Liddi realized early on that he wasn’t wired “for cubicle life.”
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He turned out the lights on his engineering career and plugged into food, specifically Italian, for which he admits an obsession. He worked in such places as a New York restaurant and a private cruise ship, and then launched a successful business in San Diego titled “Biscotti ByScotti.”
After returning to the Central Coast, he often worked with his longtime friend, chef Tom Fundaro of Villa Creek Restaurant and Farmstand 46.
All along, Liddi “had been slowly nurturing this idea” of freshly baked Italian-style breads. From the breads came sandwiches, and — now under the name “ByScotti” — Liddi began providing ready-made sandwiches to the Black Horse Café in San Luis Obispo and box lunches for Breakaway Tours.
The cornerstone of Fiero is that bread — focaccia that Liddi bakes fresh daily. He uses it for five sandwiches, each bursting with Italian flavors.
The Caprese Funghi, for example, features sautéed Portobellos and balsamic vinegar glaze, the Tacchino Rustico has roasted turkey and caramelized onions deglazed with Marsala, and the Super Tuscan is packed full of spicy capocollo ham, crunchy pancetta, zesty pepperocinis, basil, arugula, and housemade sun-dried tomato and basil pesto spread.
In addition, Liddi offers a different Focaccia Royale each day, a hearty take on pizza with assorted toppings such as caramelized onions and mushrooms or sun-dried tomatoes. He also bakes loaves for customers to take home — choose from the focaccia or Pulgiese, traditional rustic Italian bread.
Three salads are available for lunch as well. Try the grilled chicken mixed with apples, walnuts and red grapes; the Insalata Mista with sliced potatoes, green beans, olives and tomatoes; or the Mediterranean Chopped Salad with sun-dried tomatoes, feta, chicken breast, tomatoes and olives.
For breakfast, Fiero offers the Panino Primo, a breakfast sandwich with a fried egg, baked pancetta, mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato, fresh basil and housemade lemon-basil-garlic aioli on one of the freshly baked focaccia rolls. To make them especially mouthwatering, the sandwiches are warmed in a chafing dish so the cheese melts throughout.
You can also have Italian roast coffee from San Luis Obispo’s Black Horse Café, as well as daily baked pastries from Coastal Cakes and Creations, one of the culinary businesses that share the Fiero Lane facility and make their products available at the cafe. The two others are SLO ConCo, whose Italian-inspired Carmen’s Vinaigrettes are used in the café’s salads, and the handcrafted marshmallows and cookies of Stewart and Clark Fine Foods.
In opening the café, Liddi toyed briefly with the idea of using his name in the title, but opted for the street name. “Fiero” means “pride” in Italian, and seems an apt name for the home of Liddi’s focaccia.
The bread is based on a recipe he got from his Italian grandmother, who “came here at the age of 14 from the old country. She knew how ingredients behaved and she taught me about food,” he said.
“I feel very lucky to have been able to cook with her while she was alive.”