"You can take me out of Italy but you can't take Italy out of me."

Maria Yagoda
May 10, 2018

Italians have developed a global reputation for being particular about their coffee. On vacations to Italy, tourists find themselves fumbling through a slew of rules regarding Italian coffee-drinking etiquette, complicated further by the sheer variety of espresso drinks available to choose from. Top Chef alum Fabio Viviani, the chef and restaurateur based in Chicago, has lived in America for over a decade, yet he still clings to the coffee values on which he was raised, the principle one being: You absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, drink a cappucino after 10:00 a.m.

"That will never happen to me," he says. "You can take me out of Italy, but you can't take Italy out of me. That’s where I draw the line." Cappucinos, most Italians maintain, are for breakfast hours and no later. Espresso consumption, however, cannot be confined.

"I'll drink espresso at two in the morning," he says. "Espresso doesn’t have hours. It's an all-day remedy to a stressful situation."

Coffee is top of mind for the chef, who recently collaborated with Lavazza on new limited-time menu items, including an old-fashioned with a shot of espresso and a caramel coffee pudding, for his Chicago restaurant Siena Tavern. Viviani has observed, with delight, the growth of Chicago's coffee culture in the seven years he's lived there, noticing that independent cafés seem to be more successful than the bigger chains. He feels that this carries over into restaurants, too.

"As a local company we’re receiving a lot of success, but a lot of bigger restaurant groups are coming in from out of town and they’re not experiencing the same results," says Viviani. 

In 2005, the chef moved from his hometown of Florence to Southern California, just three years before he appeared on Top Chef and catapulted to celeb chef status. Now, he's somewhat quietly building his American restaurant empire, with thirteen openings planned for this year alone, including spots in Tampa, Oklahoma, and Harrisburg.

Will he ever slow down?

"When I'm tired, I'll stop. I’m still having fun," he says. "When I’m done having fun, I’ll just count the money."

The espresso probably helps.