Putting Heart in Hospitality

Gregorio’s Chef Chris Fargiano cultivates community through Italian cuisine

Chef Chris Fargiano at Gregorio’s Trattoria in Potomac. Photo by David Stuck

By Lindsay Vanasdalan

You could say Chef Chris Fargiano has been acquainted with the restaurant industry for a long time — but not always as a chef.

Before he came on board as corporate chef and director of operations for Gregorio’s Trattoria — with locations in Bethesda, Potomac and Reston — in the spring of 2020, he worked his way from the bottom up, beginning with dishwashing and prep in a Long Island, N.Y., kitchen at age 13.

“I was just very inquisitive and wanting to learn more and more every day,” he says of his experience working at an establishment called Uncle Joe’s Italian Restaurant.

This desire soon led to him moving to the front of the house helping customers and learning to make pizza — two experiences that solidified his interests in cooking and hospitality.

“I’m a people person to begin with,” Fargiano says. He enjoyed interacting with customers and learning a new skill in a fast-paced environment. “I felt like I could put on a show for the guests.”

His love for serving customers goes back to childhood when he helped out in his father’s business. Seeing his guests smile always attracted him to want to work in the hospitality industry. Now he can cook to make people smile.

He set his sights on becoming a restaurateur upon graduating from high school and earned a bachelor’s degree in business management at Briarcliffe College in 2005. Following his college graduation, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America to fine-tune his skills.

His stint as manager in the restaurant industry began in 2007. He became a manager for Uncle Joe’s — where he spent 15 years total over his career — and a year as regional manager for Jason’s Deli in Atlanta. He opened a full-service restaurant in Long Island in 2012 and sold it in 2016.

His next move was to Maryland, where he met Greg and Donald Kahn, co-owners of Gregorio’s.

“We worked well together. Greg and I are like brothers,” he says. “It’s just a great experience and I’m very blessed.”

Fargiano thrives over creating menus and mentoring managers. At Gregorio’s, his concept for the menu inspired the casual, Italian neighborhood restaurant experience.

What sets him apart from other chefs, he says, is his front-of-house knowledge and takeout experience, which helped the restaurant stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of full-service restaurants don’t do the volume of takeout that we do. It really boosted our exposure and who we are out in the neighborhoods,” he adds.

One thing’s for sure—he’s here for the long haul. “I plan on retiring with Greg and being with this company ‘til the end.”

Gregorio’s Trattoria, with locations in Bethesda, Potomac and Reston, gregoriostrattoria.com.

Photo by David Stuck

Chicken Franchese

Makes 2 servings
All-purpose flour, for coating
2 eggs, beaten
1 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoons white cooking wine
½ cup (4 ounces) chicken stock
Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 ounces cooked spaghetti, drained

1 Coat the chicken breast with flour and dip in the beaten eggs.

2 Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Place chicken in pan and cook until golden brown on one side. Flip chicken in pan and cook until golden brown on opposite side.

3 Drain oil and leave chicken in pan. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons butter and garlic. Brown garlic in pan. Add white wine and chicken stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon butter at end of cooking to add silkiness to the sauce.

4 Cover pan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the sauce is reduced by half. Let sauce rest in pan for 4 to 5 minutes.

5 Serve over cooked spaghetti and enjoy.

Photo by David Stuck

Veal Toscano

Makes 2 servings
1 6-ounce veal butt tender
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
6 tablespoons chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup artichoke hearts
1/3 cup chopped asparagus
1/3 cup presliced baby portabello mushrooms
1/3 cup preroasted red bell peppers
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
6 ounces cooked angel-hair pasta, drained

1 Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer or a meat mallet, pound the veal butt tender to achieve an even thickness. Coat the meat with flour.

2 Heat a skillet over medium heat. Place veal in pan with butter and minced garlic. Cook veal until browned, about 3 minutes on each side.

3 Add chicken stock, heavy cream, artichoke hearts, asparagus, mushrooms, peppers and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4 Cook and reduce ingredients and sauce with chicken on medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Let rest for 1-2 minutes in the pan.

5 Serve over angel-hair pasta and enjoy.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here