In these times, it’s a remarkable event to bear witness once again to the American dream realized. A success story wholly ascertained through hard work and conviction is a welcome palette cleanser in today’s culture of quick return on investment and thematic concepts of quality. In the culinary world, quality and value aren’t achieved by mere chance or desire, but are the result of the time invested and the mastery of the maker. Chef Fabio Viviani not only recognizes time-honored quality, but has spent his life searching for it again and again.
From Florence, Italy, Fabio Viviani emigrated to America in 2005 to pursue his dream. “When I was 27, I left Italy without a word of English,” he says, “and barely any money in my bank. I didn’t feel Italy had a lot left to offer and it was hard to get business loans.” Within two and a half years of arriving in Los Angeles, he opened his first restaurant and then two and a half years later, opened his second. By the end of 2022, he will be managing over 50 establishments in the restaurant, hospitality, hotel, and casino industries.
Approachable and affable, Viviani’s excitement for his work is infectious and his conviction for quality can’t help but inspire those around him. He seeks true value in all aspects of his business, from the food and drink he offers his guests, to the people he chooses to work alongside.
While recent years have been harrowing for the restaurant industry, Viviani, being no stranger to adversity, worked through the hardship to build a new business. “When COVID hit, everything went down the drain,” he confides. “We had to reinvent the business. We didn’t close any restaurants, but out of COVID, catering turned into a full-on endeavor. Now we run one of the most highly sought-after members-only supper clubs in the country.” The supper club offers a unique social gathering and unparalleled opportunity for connection for him and his guests. “It’s my favorite dining experience that I provide,” he says. “We have law firms, banks, financial institutions, grab as many memberships as they can. Then they can bring clients throughout the year.” The supper club offers 250 invitation-only seats per year for a total of 12 events. Six of the events are held at Viviani’s own estate outside of Chicago and the other half dozen take place at exclusive venues across the country. There are three options of annual membership; $10,000 for 12 events for one person, $12,500 for two people, and $15,000 for three people. “The membership cost covers the food and beverage,” says Viviani, “but the benefit for us is the networking.”
It’s sharing unique culinary delicacies with his guests that drives him, whether it’s seafood flown in fresh from Hawaii, certified A-5 Miyazaky Kobe beef, Santa Barbara sea urchin, caviar from all over the world, or Viviani’s own Italian backyard-grown Cherry San Marzano tomatoes (the only San Marzano’s grown in the U.S.). “I have access to this incredibly unique food,” he explains. “We are able to fly in food from all over the world.” The list of rare and highest quality ingredients is always changing and always paired with spirits of matched grandeur. “I have a passion for wine and bourbons,” he says. A statement that’s more than apparent from his cellar containing over 4,000 bottles. He recently hosted an event for 22 guests and opened 60 bottles from his personal collection of the unparalleled Pappy Van Winkle whiskey. “Here, we spare no expense,” says Viviani, “we open 50-year-old whiskey at $100,000 per bottle. We drop seafood by helicopter in the front yard.”
While long is the list of his accomplishments, from the multitude of restaurants and businesses, to his cookbook, to the TV appearances, Viviani is also a man of balance and perspective. When asked what among his many successes he is most proud of, without hesitation he said, “On my 10-year anniversary of moving to the U.S., my son was born. That was my greatest achievement.”
Always working on something new, his latest project, “Jars by Fabio Viviani,” promises to be a culinary treat worth celebrating. “We are reinventing the dessert business in the United States. We are taking the top 100 desserts in the United States and packaging them and they are absolutely gorgeous. Everything is built in house and delivered.” They are flavor profiles we all know: cheesecake, apple pie, bananas foster, to name a few. Only now he’s prepared them in complete, single serving treats. “Every bite of the jar is the whole cake,” he relates in genuine excitement.
While his many businesses are wildly different, Viviani’s formula remains quite simple. “Business is a combination of wealth, health, and happiness,” he says. “I always try to be sure I will get two out of those three in a business before I embrace it.” Thankfully for us, Viviani continues to find these three elements, and his projects continue to find their way to our table.