Goffredo Fraccaro, chef who refined Italian cuisine in New Orleans, dies at 96 | Where NOLA eats

Chef Goffredo Fraccaro embraced life with a joy he simply couldn’t keep to himself.

He incorporated it into his cooking, notably in his best-known and most influential restaurant, La Riviera in Metairie. He expressed it through his favorite cause, Chefs’ Charity for Children. And he shared it through life stories from his native Italy to his adopted home of New Orleans, all told in a gregarious tone and a heavy Italian accent.

“He could always tell a story that you had never heard before, he had done so much,” said his grandson Michael Jagot. “He was a life force and he inspired so many people to start cooking.”

Contributor photo – Italian-born chef Goffredo Fraccaro, seen here in the 1980s at his restaurant Metairie La Riviera, was one of the most celebrated chefs of his generation in New Orleans.

Fraccaro died on Tuesday, January 11 at the age of 96. Jagot said Fraccaro struggled with several health issues before succumbing to an illness at Kenner’s Ochsner Medical Center.

Born in Genoa, Italy in 1926, Fraccaro has always said he cooked his whole life, including a stint in the Italian Navy during World War II and later in the Merchant Navy. He was working on an Italian ship when he first set eyes on New Orleans and decided he wanted to make the city his home.


Goffredo Fraccaro shares a laugh with Leah Chase during the 2018 Chefs’ Charity for Children, the annual culinary fundraiser for St. Michael’s Special School.

“The way New Orleans is organized, the tight-knit communities, it felt like home,” his grandson said. “He loved life here.”

He arrived in Louisiana in 1960, and by 1964 he was chef at Baton Rouge’s Italian restaurant, The Little Village.

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Contributor photo – Italian-born chef Goffredo Fraccaro, seen here in the 1980s at his restaurant Metairie La Riviera, was one of the most celebrated chefs of his generation in New Orleans.

He then moved to New Orleans, where he opened an ambitious French Quarter restaurant called Il Ristorante Tre Fontane, which was described as “the city’s first great Italian restaurant” in the book “Lost Restaurants of New Orleans by Tom Fitzmorris and Peggy. Scott Laborde. This closed after a few years, but his next restaurant, La Riviera, would enjoy lasting success.


STAFF PHOTO BY MATT ROSE – Crab meat ravioli at La Riviera restaurant. Friday, March 11, 2005

Here, Fraccaro brought many traditional Italian dishes to New Orleans, serving them alongside an upscale take on Creole-Italian cuisine that would set a standard for years to come. His crab ravioli was a signature dish.


Retired chef Goffredo Fraccaro, shown here in 2017, presents a collection of medals from the Chefs’ Charity for Children, an annual benefit for St. Michael’s Special School. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The New Orleans Advocate)

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It was during this time that the Italian government made him a knight, or cavalier, in recognition of his culinary achievements, one of Fraccaro’s proudest accomplishments.

The Riviera was ruined by flooding from Hurricane Katrina and never reopened.


Original 1978 caption: Hand-picked Louisiana chefs who will be participating in the Chef’s Charity for Children Monday and Tuesday are featured here. In the front row, from left to right, are Louis Evans, of the Hotel Pontchartrain; Warren LeRuth, president of LeRuth’s restaurant; Myriam Guidroz, food writer and lecturer; Beulah Ledner, baker and back row, Gunther Preuss, of The Versailles restaurant; Chris Kerageorgiou, from La Provence; and Goffredo Fraccaro, from La Riviera restaurant. Absent from the photo: Paul Prudhomme, from the Palais du Commandeur; Austin Leslie, of Chez Hélène; and chef Louis Szathmary, of The Bakery, Chicago.

But Fraccaro maintained close ties with others in the field, especially those he joined each year at Chefs’ Charity for Children, a fundraiser for St. Michael’s Special School.

“Everything I do is out of love, and that’s what it was always about,” Fraccaro said of his commitment to the event.


Original 1989 caption: Chef Goffredo Fraccaro (left) from the Riviera and Chef Chris Kerageorgiou from Provence share a stand at the Chef-Soiree at Bogue Falaya Park in Covington on Sunday. They were among many other top chefs who offered samples of their culinary expertise to all who attended Chefs Night.

From its inception, the event brought together culinary luminaries and Fraccaro reveled in the community and purpose they shared.

“We have – in Italian, we say, cameratismo – the camaraderie, this good feeling of being together,” Fraccaro said in a 2017 interview. “All of us chefs, we have this feeling.”

Fraccaro was predeceased by his 69-year-old wife, Maria, and by his granddaughter, Donna Jagot. He is survived by his daughter Maura and his grandson.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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