Q&A: Chef Fabio Viviani Talks Chicago Favorites and New Cookbook “Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian”

Chicago restauranteur and Top Chef favorite Fabio Viviani is cooking up more than 100 fast and easy Italian recipes in his latest cookbook, Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian.

As soon as I heard Fabio Viviani was coming out with a new cookbook, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Bar Siena-worthy recipes in 30 minutes or less? Sign me up!

I had the chance to interview Fabio about his brand-new book for the latest issue of CS magazine (check out the full article here!)—he even convinced me I could make pasta from scratch (so I’m pretty sure anyone can do it).

Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian is full of tips and tricks to make authentic Italian dishes without spending hours in the kitchen. “The meals are accessible—they don’t use fancy ingredients—and if people understand how I am, they know that with literally 10 to 20 minutes and three or four steps, they can make a fantastic meal,” he says.

Fabio’s dishing on his new cookbook, favorite foodie spots in Chicago and exciting upcoming projects (hint: more wine and new restaurants coming to town!).

Want to try one of my favorite dishes from the book? Check out Fabio’s recipe for Four-Mushroom Risotto with Parsley Salad and Sun-Dried Tomatoes.

How does this cookbook compare to the others you’ve written?

Fabio Viviani: The first one you guys got was Fabio’s Italian Kitchen. There are recipes there that take three or four hours, but that was my family’s old recipes, so that was very different. That was not big on ease and quickness, that was based on whatever Fabio grew up with and his family recipes.

The second book, Fabio’s American Home Kitchen, was my journey to our United States. The dish I’ve learned, the dish I’ve loved, and the flavor I got familiar with and the people that cooked with me.

This is all about speed. It’s about quality, pace and speed. If it ain’t fast, it’s not there.

What advice would you give to at-home cooks who think it’s too intimidating to try things like making their own pasta and cooking Italian food from scratch?

FV: I think a big part of being fast and being efficient is to prep ahead. So if you make pasta today, making two portions of pasta and making 10 takes the same time if you use a food processor like I teach you. So why not make 10 [portions], so for the next five times you eat pasta with your loved one you don’t have to make it—it’s ready, it’s there. Now you can make a dish that normally would take 40-50 minutes in 20 minutes.

What’s your go-to for a quick, good Italian meal?

FV: A chicken dish, some caramelized zucchini, a couple of slices of prosciutto and some melted cheese on it, we glaze with white wine half bottle and the other half we drink it.

TIP! Fabio recommends pairing that dish with a bottle of Fabio Viviani Chardonnay or Fabio Viviani Cabernet Sauvignon—you can pick up Fabio Viviani Wines at Whole Foods.

Do you have any favorite cooking tools or utensils that you recommend people have on hand in the kitchen?

FV: I like food processors, I like high-speed blenders, and I like a classic old-school wooden spoon.

Do you have plans to open up any more restaurants in Chicago?

FV: DineAmic Group is opening now Barrio, the Mexican concept. My business partners Lucas [Stoioff] and David [Rekhson] are opening that. And we have a few other things coming up in the making that we haven’t officially spoken about, so they’re still a little bit under the radar, but for sure more stuff in Chicago.

Any other fun projects in the works?

FV: We have a special reserve wine coming out from Fabio Viviani Wine Collection called Fatty Pope [note: Fatty Pope is available now at Whole Foods!], as well as we just launched our website Lobster by Fabio, where we are delivering fresh Maine lobster worldwide overnight and we tell you how to cook great dishes and a few other things.

Fabio’s Chicago Favorites

Sandwich: The Asian Banh Mi at Jeff Mauro’s Pork & Mindy’s. “The barbecue is to die for.”

Date Night Spot: West Loop’s La Sirena Clandestina, “It’s very intimate. I’ll take the wife there for dinner anytime of the week.”

Brunch: Avocado Toast at The Soho House. “It’s very nice. I get two avocado toasts, green tea with honey, poached eggs and some smoked salmon.”

Cocktail Bar: “I go to The Aviary once in a while, but it has to be Bar Siena and Siena Tavern for cocktails. It’s very hard to beat my restaurants in town for cocktails. We have great cocktails.”

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