If you had the choice to live in Cincinnati, Ohio, or Verona, Italy, which would you choose?
“There’s a saying, you know, that there’s no good reason to come to Cincinnati,” says Italian native Agostino Fede. “But once you’ve been here there is no good reason to leave. It’s really true.”
Though if Fede is being honest, he says he and his partner will likely retire in Italy in the coming years, but until then, he’s aiming to bring “a little dolce vita” to Cincinnati—specifically to your kitchen.
With the launch of NOLI Modern Italian Kitchens this past May, Fede brings full-service kitchen design to Over-the-Rhine, replete with style and function guidance by Fede, sophisticated European fixtures by the likes of Smeg and Fantini, and even installation.
With NOLI, Fede wants to “bring something authentic back from Italy, which is close to my heart, to an area that is close to my heart.” We recently spoke to the man about how he first came to the Queen City, what being a chef and a scientist have in common, his kitchen design philosophy, and where he goes for a good meal when he’s feeling nostalgico (homesick).
Cincinnati Refined: So Cincinnati, Ohio, over Verona, Italy—really?
Agostino Fede: Cincinnati, for me, came because of a job opportunity, just not in the kitchen business. I was in the pharmaceutical business and I was relocated. I moved to Cincinnati in 2005, and I remember when I flew in for my interview, I fell in love with the area. When you come down from the airport, down the hill, the city opens up. I had this (reaction) – ah – this is it. This is beautiful. I want to be here. Then in 2006 I moved to Over-the-Rhine where I purchased a condo. At the time I was a pharmaceutical executive. I had worked in labs all my life—you know labs and kitchens have a lot in common.
CR: How so?
AF: Being a scientist by training, when you run an experiment, you go through the same workflow and process that you would in a kitchen. You have room temperature storage—that’s called your pantry; you have cold storage, which is called “freezer” and “fridge;” you have your preparation area, which is where you get all of your ingredients together to perform your experiment; and then you have your cooking area, which is the next step where you perform your experiment. Finally, you have the consumption area, where we eat—that’s where we interpret the results. In that, we have a very similar workflow: cold, hot, cook, consume. You want the least movement between these areas. You want it to be logical and well organized.
CR: Why make your next step about kitchen design?
AF: When I moved to my loft in 2006, I had the opportunity to customize my kitchen. When I retired from the pharmaceutical industry and I was looking to re-wire, I thought about how I’m attracted to beauty, function and cooking. After some soul searching, I came down to kitchens. I wanted to do something authentic; something I believe in. This product is very authentically Italian from the area I live in, and I wanted to bring it to NOLI—north of Liberty.
CR: Why do you think people say a kitchen is the heart of the home?
AF: There is something magnetic about a kitchen. I don’t know if it’s the warmth or the proximity to the fridge because all the beverages are there, but my best parties have always been in the kitchen. Not only because of its function per se, but it’s also a confined space, and the best parties have a certain density of people. Twenty people in a small kitchen is a much better party than 20 people in a huge loft.
We can’t let you go without asking: Being Italian, what are some of your favorite Italian restaurants in Cincinnati?
AF: For pizza, the closest that came to a good Neapolitan pizza is MidiCi. It’s the closest you’ll get to the chewiness of the dough that you get in Naples. For Italian food, I’m a fan of Via Vite, I’m a big fan of Cristian Pietoso. He’s a great chef and very consistent.
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Click through the photos above to get a sense of Fede's design style. And visit NOLI online or in person at 100 W. Elder Street (45202).