Most people will recognize Fabio Viviani from his appearance on "Top Chef," where his charisma and unparalleled cooking style made him a fan-favorite on Season 5 and also led to his reappearance on "Top Chef All-Stars." He now resides in the Los Angeles area where he owns Cafe Firenze and Firenze Osteria. He sat down with culture's smitten correspondent Alexandra Howard for a few cheese questions.
Are you serving any cheese dishes right now at your restaurants?
We do homemade fresh Ricotta and potato ravioli with melted Taleggio cheese. Taleggio is an Italian cheese that is our version of brie. We also do Mozzarella bowls, which is Mozzarella wrapped around sautéed mushrooms and Mascarpone cheese. We have a dumpling with Parmesan cheese, Ricotta and Pecorino shaved with spinach and bathed in brown butter. They are to die for. Who doesn't love cheese? Are you aware of someone who doesn't like cheese?
Do you make any cheeses at your restaurant?
Sometimes we do make Mozzarella at my restaurant because we can get a hold of American FDA approved cheese curd. But because of the FDA laws it is very hard to make cheese at my restaurant. We import a lot of Italian cheese from Italy like buffalo Mozzarella. There are tons of cheeses out there that, as a chef, I love to use. And since I am Italian I especially enjoy the ones that represent my country.
You are eating cheese, what are you drinking?
Cheese is not an easy pairing. There are so many components and flavors to cheese that it is difficult to drink only one thing when eating multiple cheeses. In general, I think wine and cheese is a match made in heaven, but which wine with which cheese? So when I have a cheese platter I don't even bother with wine because that wine is only good with one or two cheeses, maybe. I would just rather drink water.
Do you have any special family traditions centered around food?
My family tradition is that we always make lasagna and fried lamb on Sundays. My mom also always makes Ricotta fritters. She makes her own Ricotta in the kitchen with lemon and milk. Sometimes she decides to skip the lasagna and lamb and everyone is good with it, as long as she does the fritters. If she is missing the ricotta fritters, someone is going to get pissed off.
What is in your fridge at home?
My refrigerator right now is pretty miserable because I have been gone for so long. My fridge will for sure have yogurt, milk, Sriracha, olive oil, because I got the new oil from Italy (I just recently went there). So I keep the oil in the fridge because it preserves better. Then you will probably find expired eggs. I believe some pancetta and I do know that I have some Blue Moon beer and some soy sauce in this moment.
What was your most memorable moment being on "Top Chef"?
Well I had never had Thanksgiving dinner as of season 5 of the show. For one challenge, I had to bake a turkey in a toaster and we actually pulled it off. I took two toaster ovens and I broke the glass on the front of both. Then I taped them with aluminum to isolate the heat inside. That was absolutely not safe and not approved by the producers. It was hard because I didn't know what to do in that situation. So I stuffed half of the turkey in one oven and half in the other one and I closed the oven with the turkey and wrapped the whole thing in aluminum foil. They couldn't air that part because of liability reasons. That was a funny moment, and we won. We won the challenge and we won tickets to a Foo Fighters Concert. That was a great one.