Sunday Brunch With A Side Of Fabio

By Erika Kubick in Food on Nov 27, 2013 5:00PM

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Fabio Viviani is known for his gregarious nature and outrageous antics that earned him fan-favorite status on Top Chef. But if you've ever eaten at Siena Tavern, you know that there is some real culinary prowess behind Fabio's rambunctious Italian charm. Not only can the man cook but he makes it look easy too. Last Sunday we headed to Siena Tavern for a cooking demonstration and three-course brunch. Fabio's stage presence is about as addicting as his food. We walked away with a pocket full of recipes and a little bit more wisdom than we expected from the chef's hilarious rants and raves.

"Cooking is about common sense."
Before demonstrating how to make a pesto-hollandaise sauce, Fabio gave the audience a patronizing but hysterical pep talk. "Cooking is about common sense," he said sardonically, implying that if one can stand behind a stove, one can cook. He boiled some water, illustrating another proof of cooking's innate simplicity, and offered another hunk of advice: "Learning to cook," said the chef, "is about proximity." Well, we're definitely feeling a little more Italian.

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Vivani lecturing on "common sense."

"How lazy are you?"
According to Fabio, brunch is for "Americans who want to eat whatever they want whenever they want." Even worse, those who eat brunch leftovers for dinner. "Brinner!" he exclaimed, before becoming sickened from his own joke. "it's messed up." For a man who hates brunch so much, he sure knows how to make a delicious one. Our first course was eggs benedict: brioche with "morta-freaking-della" and pesto hollandaise. It was a little cold but rich, smoky and entirely satisfying.

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Eggs benedict with pesto hollandaise.

"Did you grab my butt?"
If you're using two fingers to pinch your table salt, you're doing it all wrong. Fabio endorses the three-finger pinch. Why? His reasoning is clear: If you are on a bus and the creepy guy behind you grabs your butt with two fingers, you have to ask "did you just grab my butt?" because you're not sure. But if he grabs your butt with three fingers you know that he did it. More cheek, more salt - makes sense to us.

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Kale salad with Caesar dressing.

"Let's make it tasty while we're alive."
For Fabio, dieting is a waste of time. "The goal is not to die healthy, but to be old and happy," he says. "We are eventually going to die so let's make it tasty while we are alive." Fabio isn't against eating healthy; he loves vegetables but doesn't enjoy eating them plain. We're not complaining. Our second course was a kale salad tossed in homemade Caesar dressing and topped with oven-roasted tomatoes, croutons and a shave of parmesan. This is a salad we can get behind.

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Gnocchi with truffle cream sauce.

"Everything I have today I owe to gnocchi in America."
Before sharing his family's recipe, Fabio took a moment to discuss what the potato-based pasta meant to him: "everything I have today I owe to gnocchi in America," he stated. Potatoes on their own do not impress him. He even called them the "bottom feeders of the vegetable world." To elaborate, he explained that if someone served him a baked potato in a restaurant and charged him $8.95 he would "stab you in the neck." Clearly, baked potatoes are best skinned, ground and turned into fluffy little gnocchi. We enjoyed a plate adorned with truffle cream sauce, fried sage and pancetta.

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Bomboloni with pumpkin spice cream.

"When it comes to donuts, it's OK to be selfish."
We didn't get a demo, but this warm bomboloni with pumpkin spice cream was everything we wish the cronut would be.