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Fabro, Allegro Celso (1902–1962)

by Suzanne Edgar and Carmel Floreani

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Allegro Celso Fabro (1902-1962), restaurateur, was born on 28 July 1902 at Treppo Piccolo, Udine, Italy, eldest of four sons of Antonio Giuseppe Fabro, bricklayer, and his wife Rosa, née Peresesano, who worked their small farm. Celso attended primary school at Treppo Grande before finding a job as a shop-assistant to a draper at nearby Tricesimo. After World War I the Friuli region was so depressed that many people were forced to emigrate. Travelling in the Moncalieri, Fabro disembarked at Fremantle, Western Australia, in 1926. Next year he made his way to Adelaide and was briefly secretary of the Italian club, Vittorio Veneto. He later cleared scrub and chopped wood at Mildura, Victoria, but by 1932 was living in Melbourne where his relations had settled.

From working as a kitchenhand, Fabro rose to be head waiter and manager of the Italian Society Club Restaurant, Bourke Street. Meanwhile his friend Napoleone Floreani had prospered in Adelaide; he encouraged Fabro to return there in 1945 and helped him to buy the Cabin Café, renamed Allegro's Café, at 41 Rundle Street. With his partner Henry (Harry) Albert Hopkinson as chef, and his brothers Alfredo in the kitchen and Giovanni as head waiter, he introduced South Australians to minestrone, spaghetti bolognese, veal scaloppine and whiting cooked in the Milanese way; real coffee was served from a thirty-cup percolator, another novelty. Although the café could seat 112 customers, its style was homely.

By 1950 Fabro possessed assets worth £2000 and his annual income was about £800. Fair haired and charming, he regularly travelled with Hopkinson in Europe, collecting ideas for dishes which they tried out on family and staff before expanding Allegro's menu. The café attracted students, intellectuals and overseas visitors (among them the actress Deborah Kerr and the pianist Winifred Atwell). Fabro drove imported cars. He was cultured, well read and well spoken, popular with his staff and customers. His fluent English enabled him to assist compatriots with immigration and other documents. Able to guarantee accommodation and employment, he sponsored about thirty men from his province to follow him. Two such young immigrants were Pompeo Patat and Ermanno Olivo; they worked for him and lived at his Joslin home where he grew gladioli and chrysanthemums for the café's spectacular floral arrangements. Vice-president of Norwood Football Club, he provided dinner tickets for two to the best player in Saturday's matches.

In 1955 Fabro was given notice to quit his premises. Two years later, in Gilbert Place in the city, he re-opened the more elegant Allegro's Restaurant. It adjoined the Quelltaler House of H. Buring & Sobels Ltd whose wines he served. In 1958 he helped to found Fogolar Furlan, the Italian club at Payneham, through which people obtained work and where the traditions of Italy, particularly those of the Friuli region, were preserved. While sharing Christmas dinner at Renato Floreani's Hazelwood Park home on 25 December 1962, Fabro died of a coronary occlusion; he was buried with Catholic rites in Centennial Park cemetery. Most of his estate (sworn for probate at £14,224) was bequeathed to Hopkinson, to 'enjoy . . . as he pleases . . . that he may live in a sober, sensible, amicable way, in recognition of all the . . . companionship, assistance and help he has given me'. The name Allegro is commemorated by a sign on Quelltaler House and Fabro's gravestone bears a photograph.

Select Bibliography

  • Norwood Football Club, Annual Report, 1959-60
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 25 June 1955, 26, 27 Dec 1962
  • D400, file 53/5382 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Suzanne Edgar and Carmel Floreani, 'Fabro, Allegro Celso (1902–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fabro-allegro-celso-10140/text17905, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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