Saturday, April 21, 2018
Restaurants

Top Chef’s Fabio Viviani will open a restaurant in downtown Tampa

The Tampa Bay restaurant scene has hit a certain kind of critical mass. For several years, rumors have swirled that the nation’s celebrity chefs were considering this part of the Florida peninsula as "the next big thing," a place to colonize and set up shop.

Now, we’ve learned that Fabio Viviani, best known for his television debut on Bravo’s hit reality series Top Chef — earning the season five "Fan Favorite" title — will open Osteria in downtown Tampa this spring. Located in the bottom floor of the new luxury high-rise Nine15, Osteria is a joint project between Viviani and the Nocturnal Group, the group behind Tampa’s Franklin Manor.

He joins a roster of rumored and real chef developments in our area. Iron Chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Geoffrey Zakarian, author and megastar Emeril Lagasse and Food Network notable Donatella Arpaia have all been mentioned as potential comers. Robert Irvine had an abortive foray some years back, then Michael Mina took the plunge with Locale Market in St. Petersburg and we’re around the corner from barbecue champ Dr. BBQ showing us how ’cue is done, also in St. Petersburg.

Viviani already has a number of restaurant concepts: Mercato (six locations); Café Firenze in California; Siena Tavern, Bar Siena and Prime & Provisions in Chicago; and Portico in upstate New York. His first Osteria is in the Delta terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. He also has his own wine label, Fabio Viviani Wines, an at-home seafood delivery service, Lobster by Fabio, and an online cooking show, Fabio’s Kitchen, on YouTube.

He’s not new to Tampa Bay: In 2013 he cooked an Einstein on Food & Wine festival dinner in a private home on Bayshore Boulevard. When asked then what he would cook for that event, he said cryptically, "We’re going to rock the house. When the kitchen is rocking, don’t bother knocking, come on in. Fun is guaranteed. Bring your party pants."

Thus far the details of Osteria are a bit more spelled out, a rustic but refined Italian kitchen and bar featuring a large outdoor patio and a nightlife program with entertainment to include live music and DJs. So, definitely party pants. Menu highlights may include arancini with pancetta sago, smoked aioli and amaranth, a jalapeno bacon cheeseburger (ironic, because Viviani was ousted from Top Chef over a hamburger, the judges condemning it as "more like a meatball") and gnocchi with rabbit sugo. The bar program at Osteria will feature craft cocktails created by mixologist Ro Patel, the man behind the programs at the Hall of Franklin, Ciro’s, and a number of other notable craft cocktail bars.

In recent months there has been much focus on the sheer number of restaurants poised to open in downtown St. Petersburg, many of them giant 300-seaters. But downtown Tampa has seen an influx nearly as notable, with Franklin Street alone welcoming five newcomers in the past couple of months. At this point, downtown Tampa boasts nearly 200 restaurants crossing cuisines, price points and ambition levels. With added condo and apartment living and new businesses and civic projects, downtown Tampa’s nightlife has burgeoned, but it remains to be seen if the city can support this glut of newcomers.

Since his stint on Top Chef, Viviani has continued to have a television presence with recurring appearances on Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show and The Chew. So what Viviani has in his favor: national name recognition, a vivacious personality and as some viewers have insisted, a certain kind of sex appeal.

"I feel very blessed. I don’t know about the sex appeal stuff," Viviani told the Tampa Bay Times in 2013. "For me really it was more like I was the Italian guy. I can’t even speak English. But Top Chef changed everything for me. I was taken by storm."

Contact Laura Reiley at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.

Comments
Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

Tampa’s 60-year-old Housewife Bake Shop may not be closing after all

For nearly 60 years it was breads, cakes and pastries, up before dawn for the Perrone family in Armenia Garden Estates. For a minute it looked like Tampa’s Housewife Bake Shop was going to close, but third-generation owner Tena Perrone said on Wednes...
Published: 04/19/18
Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

Four new restaurants in Tampa Bay: Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more

TERRA GAUCHATerra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse, a classic churrascaria-style Brazilian meatery — you know, where the guys in South American cowboy attire walk around with the swords of meat until you capitulate in a carnivorous haze — has opened a loc...
Published: 04/18/18
Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

Food events this weekend: Blueberry Festival, Whiskey Obsession, Taste of Carrollwood and more

WORTH THE DRIVE: Ocala Culinary FestivalThe Ocala Culinary Festival runs through Sunday with dozens of food and educational events throughout Ocala and Marion County. The list is impressive, tickets for events priced individually. Here is a sampler: ...
Published: 04/12/18
Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

Tampa restaurant Steelbach’s Florida-raised beef program could be a model for true farm-to-table dining

TAMPATrust me, this will be a restaurant review. In a couple of minutes. First, we need to dive into something the new Steelbach at Armature Works is doing that is ground-breaking, disruptive, way-outside-the-box. It’s so forward-thinking that Commis...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/12/18
10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

10 questions with Molly Schuyler, the competitive eater who won $2,500 for eating a big Taco Bus burrito

When it comes to competitive eating, Molly Schuyler is one of the best in the world. Last weekend she dominated her competition at Tampa’s Taco Bus Burrito Eating Championship by taking down a 2.5-pound "El Jefe" in just over a minute to win $...
Published: 04/10/18
Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

Caddy’s At the Pointe apologizes for putting diner’s race on their receipt

A Bradenton restaurant has publicly apologized for a server who described a table by including the diners’ race. A photograph of a Caddy’s At the Pointe receipt posted to Facebook shows the table was entered into the restaurant’s p...
Published: 04/09/18
Updated: 04/10/18
Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

Maple Street Biscuits now open, bringing much-needed biscuits to St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — I was prepared. I’d been to the Maple Street Biscuit location in Tallahassee in our circuitous escape from Hurricane Irma. The woman behind the counter was going to ask me my favorite childhood television show so it could...
Updated one month ago
This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

This weekend’s food festivals: Celebrate wine, craft soda, shrimp and crawfish

CHEERS: TO DALÍRaise a glass or two to welcome spring as the Dalí hosts its seventh annual signature wine and food tasting, Los Vinos de Dalí, on Sunday from 3-7 p.m. Both Old World and New World wines are paired with tapas tastings from area restaur...
Updated one month ago
Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

Florida chef Jeanie Roland talks competing on ‘Iron Chef Gauntlet’ and the time she beat Bobby Flay

In August 2015, Punta Gorda chef Jeanie Roland beat world-famous Bobby Flay with her signature moules-frites (that’s mussels and fries). Let’s say Flay got filleted by a petite, now 51-year-old chef in a fairly sleepy waterside Florida town not known...
Updated one month ago
Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

Free Little Caesars for lunch today for all of America, thanks to UMBC’s NCAA upset

TAMPA — Who doesn’t love free food? Who doesn’t love pizza? Well, thanks to Little Caesars and some March Madness, everybody in the country can get free pizza today. Before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament started, Little...
Updated one month ago