On a recent weekend night, the excitement at the new Firenze Osteria is palpable. It's three-deep at the bar, air-kisses galore, the "ciao, ciaos" and "buona seras" coming fast and heavy. Tablecloths are whisked off tables and silverware and glasses slapped down before the diners who have just finished have even made it to the door.
Everybody's eager to taste the cooking of Fabio Viviani, the Tuscan-born chef they followed during the fifth season of "Top Chef," Bravo's popular food show. Late of Café Firenze in Moorpark, he has moved on and opened his own place with longtime business partner Jacopo Falleni and Lisa Long on a quiet block of Lankershim Boulevard, a stone's throw from Universal CityWalk.
Viviani's not in the kitchen tonight, though, where a handful of cooks are working at a furious pace to feed two packed dining rooms. He's not in the main room where the handsome Falleni is going from table to table greeting guests and soothing egos. Where's Fabio? Somewhere in the Midwest, our server answers with a shrug.