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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Fabiola's Spaghetti House and Deli, photographed February 13, 2024.

At Fabiola’s, community history is preserved through cuisine

Even on a mild winter’s afternoon, the lively chatter of Madison students and residents cascaded within the homey walls of Fabiola’s Spaghetti House and Deli. 

The restaurant was created as an ode to the history of Italian restaurants within the Greenbush neighborhood, according to Fabiola’s owner, Sam Brown. Brown, who was born and raised in Madison, wants to continue that history, especially since the last red sauce pasta house on Regent Street, Josie’s, burned down in a 2004 fire.

He said Fabiola’s is his ode to bygone red sauce pasta houses and supper clubs that used to dot the neighborhood.

“I believe strongly in the importance of restoration and the importance of preservation,” Brown said, “We're trying to preserve what this neighborhood used to mean to people and the food that you used to be able to eat here.”

Brown also said, as a resident of the Greenbush neighborhood and Neighborhood House Community Center board chair, he feels a “fiduciary responsibility” to continue some of these traditions.

Restaurant spaces have always been familiar to Brown, who said he started his journey in the industry washing dishes for Rocky Rococo, a pizza restaurant chain co-founded by his father in the same space where Fabiola’s opened in November. 


Fabiola's Owner Sam Brown
Owner of Fabiola's Sam Brown photographed Feb. 14, 2024.


“By utilizing a smaller space and packing people in just a little bit, you're creating an atmosphere that's a lot more like a party,” Brown said. 

Brown’s inspiration for creating a sense of togetherness using tighter spaces drew from his visits to numerous red sauce restaurants in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. La Scalora, a Chicago-based classic Italian eatery, stood out to him as a strong source of inspiration for what would manifest as Fabiola’s. 

“You're dining close to other patrons, and there's just something about that I find tremendously life-affirming,” Brown said. “I wanted to see if I could create something that has that urban hustle.”

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In addition to preserving a sense of invitation in Fabiola’s snug area, Brown said the spaghetti house’s design was embedded with elements of local history. 

Upon the closing of Snick’s Sportsman Bar, a local Monona treasure that served the town since its inception in 1939, Brown and Snick’s owner John Quale salvaged the iconic spot’s bar along with all the other hardwood panels in the building.

Brown included the hardwood and bar from Snick’s in Fabiola’s, and the pasta house’s arbor structure was formed from beams originally set in Snick’s pool room. 

“A bar is kind of a living thing, and you know, to imagine a bar ending up where people can't gather around it is awfully sad,” Brown said. 

As for the name? Brown said Fabiola was his late grandmother’s best friend, whom he shared lasting memories with.

“My father has very fond memories of going over to [Fabiola’s] home as a child and I named Leopold's after my paternal great grandfather, and so this continues in that ode.” Brown said.

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