Sabine Bachmann brings European charm to Memphis in the form of two distinctive restaurants. She is the founder and owner of Fratelli’s, which is inside the Memphis Botanic Garden, and ECCO on Overton Park, located in the Evergreen Historic District. Commercial Appeal writer Jennifer Biggs listed ECCO as one of the 10 best restaurants of 2014 and named the chorizo burger at ECCO as one of her 10 favorite dishes of the year. What is immediately apparent to anyone who meets Sabine is that passion and quality surround all that she does as an innovative restaurateur. Welcome, Sabine.
Have you always called Memphis home?
No, I am originally from Nordhorn in Germany, a small city located next to the Dutch border. I also lived in Parma, Italy for six years while attending veterinary school. There, I met my former husband and father of my three boys. He was playing baseball in Italy and was from Memphis; that’s how I landed here.
How did your career in the restaurant business evolve?
My mother was a great cook. We always gathered around the dinner table, and when living in Italy, and during my frequent visits to southern France (where my dad had bought a farm), I fell in love with the simplicity of the foods and their freshness.
I opened Fratelli’s downtown in 2002 with the idea of a cheese shop, but it evolved quickly into a sandwich shop, and this year (2014), ECCO, which is a full-service restaurant.
Tell us a bit about your childhood in Germany.
I grew up in rural Germany. My dad was a veterinarian, and my mom stayed at home with me and my two brothers. I remember my mom and grandmother sitting out on the porch peeling asparagus, potatoes or other food items for the dinner. We sat together and sang, and sometimes my dad would play the accordion.
What is a typical day like when you are in charge of two restaurants?
Since opening ECCO, my life changed a lot. I am up at 6:30 a.m. to walk my dogs and then run over to ECCO (I live around the corner) to fix a cappuccino and order food in from a list my son and chef, Armando, made up the night before. Next, I go to Fratelli’s or ECCO, wherever I am needed. In the afternoon, I run necessary errands and then head back to ECCO for dinner service, go home between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., walk the dogs and go to sleep.
Briefly describe how Fratelli’s and ECCO are different from each other.
Fratelli’s is a small lunch place inside the beautiful Botanic Garden. We offer panini and focaccia sandwiches, along with salads and homemade desserts. ECCO is a full-service restaurant, and here we can be very creative with the food, the space and the area behind the restaurant. We plant a garden there, so we can grow herbs and some specialty vegetables.
What is your favorite item on the menu at Fratelli’s and your favorite item on the menu at ECCO?
At Fratelli’s, the Siena panini with chicken, mozzarella and red onion. At ECCO, it’s so hard to tell, but definitely the salmon, the Saratoga Ribeye, Goulash, Cioppino …
When you eat at other restaurants in Memphis, where do you go and what do you order?
I love seafood, so Tsunami is one of my favorite places to go. I had a nice brunch lately at Sweet Grass, and Andrew Michael is my favorite Italian restaurant. I have promised myself to eat out more often and try some of the other great eateries in Memphis.
What are some words of wisdom you can offer based on your professional experience?
Never give up on your dream!
What are three lighthearted things you cannot live without?
Wine, my kids and my friends (in that order).
Name your first choice for a vacation. Why is this place special to you?
Southern France! I spent time there in my youth and still remember the smell of lavender in the air, the fresh goat cheese and the beauty of the land.
Are there other activities you enjoy apart from the restaurant business? How do you relax and recharge?
I love to sew, but unfortunately, I don’t have much time. I also read, listen to music and WKNO.
What is the most challenging aspect of the restaurant business?
Keeping up with a balance between offering good food and wine at reasonable prices while making a profit is the most challenging.
What is your favorite part of the restaurant business?
Thank you, Sabine!
And thank you to Micki Martin for today’s lovely images of Sabine, taken at ECCO on Overton Park.