You don’t need to know the story behind Fiore Market Cafe, the bustling little lunch spot on the corner of El Centro and Fremont in South Pasadena, to feel that there’s something wonderful afoot as soon as you walk in. Fiore embodies the essence of a place like South Pasadena; it’s petite and familial and warm and the sense of community there feels layered and rich. The entire menu seems humble but is in fact magnificent, and their goods have garnered enough of a cult following to spawn cookbooks, classes, and an adjacent gift shop.
I’ve joked that maybe there are drugs in the food, because I couldn’t find a way to describe to people who haven’t been yet how everything could be so magical. How every simple ingredient there just tasted better than it might have anywhere else. The herbs and vegetables come from their garden. The chicken is roasted on site every day. The bread, my god, the bread! There’s nothing else like it anywhere, and I will stand by that. But in the wake of co-owner and matriarch Anne Disselhorst’s sudden passing, I’m finally starting to understand why everything there is as marvelous as it is.
Fiore began as a passion project for Bill and Anne Disselhorst less than a decade ago. Bill has always seemed to me to be the main face of Fiore; he happily makes his way through the patio, kindly and genuinely asking every table, “How’s your lunch?” It doesn’t sound like much on paper, but anyone who’s had that exchange with him knows how honest it is every single time. This isn’t a waiter making his rounds, this is a patriarch making sure his community is happy and nourished.
Though Bill is the man behind the loaves, the underlying spirit of Fiore was always Anne. The breath of everything there, the discretion, the artfulness, the warmth, all of that was her. She had the final say on all recipes and she kept the ship running so calmly and smoothly that, in all of my visits, I’ve never seen anyone so much as frown. Not patron, nor employee.
While the family and community mourn her passing and celebrate her life, we’re all grateful to Bill for carrying on the legacy she seemed to have accidentally built. The palpable love between Anne and Bill not only made everyone feel welcome, always, but could be felt in the earnest integrity of their food. After all, what better way is there to show love than through food? Bill himself said, “The only way I can express my love for all of you is through my hands by making bread.”
On Sunday, August 13th, Bill will be baking loaves of bread all day. The plan is 102 loaves, from 7 am to 1 pm. Please stop by and grab one, whether it’s your first visit or your two hundredth. 1000 Fremont Ave, South Pasadena 91030.