Chef Fabio Viviani Shares Fond Memories of Family Meals

“Food is a social lubricant. I think it’s important for family to get away from everyday distractions like the TV or the cell phone to spend at least an hour together over dinner.” — Fabio Viviani 

Italian-born Chef Fabio Viviani is many things: a chef, celebrity, restaurateur, cookbook author, husband and father. But he wouldn’t mind being everyone’s grandma too. Why? Because Viviani believes the world needs more grandmas to remind us to cherish legacy, tradition and memories created around food. We asked Chef to share his favorite memories and grant us insight into his Sunday supper traditions with his family, then and now.

What did Sunday supper look like in your household growing up? I grew up very poor, so the diet on our table wasn’t great: bread, flour, water, some tomato and eggs. Every night, my grandma cooked eggs: eggs with tomato, eggs with eggs, eggs with spinach and eggs with eggs again. But Sundays were amazing, not because the dinner was great necessarily, but because it was not just eggs. We’d have eggs with meatballs, which my grandma made out of meat scraps she got from the butcher shop she cleaned. It was something different, and that was enough for us. 

If someone walked into your home back then, what would they see? I was not a very well-behaved child, so my great grandma put me to work in the kitchen starting at the age of 5 to keep me out of trouble. If someone were to walk into the house at any given time, they’d probably see me standing on a chair mixing fresh pasta dough or cake batter with a wooden spoon. I’d ask if I could go play and my great grandma would say, “Not until there are no more lumps!” 

How have the dining traditions of your upbringing influenced your craft? I respect Italian tradition and try not to get too caught up in new kitchen technology. My food is not pretentious or complicated. It’s meant to be made and to feed people. 

Who sits at the table today? My wife, Ashley, my son Gage and myself. Ashley and I like to eat with the baby, where we have the whole family at the table. 

What dining traditions do you hope to see hold strong for your son’s future? Food is a social lubricant. I think it’s important for families to get away from everyday distractions like the TV or the cell phone to spend at least an hour together over dinner. I mean in Italy, we spent hours at the table at a time. I want my son to know the value of dining together. 

What special dish makes an appearance during holidays? A rib roast or a pork shoulder. It takes a long time to cook, but prep work is easy, so you can prep it, throw it in a slow cooker or Dutch oven, and leave it be while you prepare other dishes. Plus, the leftovers are easy to repurpose for tacos, meat pies, pasta sauces, ravioli filling — basically anything where shredded meat is needed. 

What wine would you enjoy during Sunday supper? Red, usually Chianti. But now, since I have my own winery, I drink Fatty Pope and Fabio Viviani Wines’ Cabernet or Red Blend. 

Sonoma-based Fabio Viviani wine collection features five varietals, including Fatty Pope, a fat red blend loaded with jammy flavor, and goes perfectly with braised pork and roast asparagus with garlic. 

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