He grew up on welfare and 50-egg fritatas, is not so fond of the beach, and prefers wine to beer. The latter, naturally befitting a Northern Italian who had his first sip of the stuff (Chianti, of course) at the vine-ripe age of five, courtesy of his grandpapa. Perhaps this was the seed that stemmed Chef Fabio Viviani’s eventual endorsement of Santa Margherita Italian wines. Most recently the partnership brought this Bravo “Top Chef” contestant to Miami to promote “Prosecco & Popcorn” at the Miracle Mile Theater in Coral Gables on Wednesday, September 7th. Floridians turned out to capture the classic “Roman Holiday” while sipping on their personally popped Prosecco half-bottle from a retro striped straw and clawing at unlimited mini-buckets of gourmet flavored popped corn kernels. I’ll throwback that throwback any day.
The team aimed to gussy up the classic comfort of popcorn at the movies with a few bubbles and some fancy flavorings. Viviani created three popcorns for the picking with profiles to complement the sweet acidity of the Italian Prosecco: Lemon & Black Pepper, Truffle Oil & Parmesan, and Caramel & Pancetta. Let me assure that sparkling wine was simply an added bonus to these devourable pops, as my hoarding instinct had me stacking as many as I could muster for the seated screening. The truffle oil’s unmistakable tongue trademark was further enhanced by the powdery Parmesan cheese. And the burnt saccharine caramel was expertly juxtaposed by the swine’s salty bite. By movie-end, I had downed at least six buckets worth of these pillowy pops of decadence and was only disappointed by the deficit of to-go bags. Though if you did want to savor these snacks at home, little recipe cards were provided for the taking (but we all know it never tastes the same when we make it for ourselves).
Viviani charmed guests in a casual pin-striped button-down, sleeves coolly rolled to the elbows, and that thick Italian hair slicked back on par with his thick Italian accent. As he spoke to me with engaging hazel eyes, Viviani assured he would never serve anything he wouldn’t eat himself. While proud of his popcorn recipes, he modested, “I’m just a chef; I’m not reinventing anything.” But that doesn’t mean palate pleasing popcorn has to be a new idea for savory success.
And while it may seem like a new idea to Americans, Viviani boasts that he has long enjoyed Santa Margherita wines since his days in Italy before their partnership, and proudly serves them at his LA restaurant Firenze Osteria. Popcorn is old-fashioned and so is the movie, he said, so the addition of the Prosecco is an attempt to make wine more accessible to everyone (er, the legal-drinking everyone). But why the bubbly? He asserts that you can drink it with anything and at any time of the day; a versatile wine to say the least. Cheers to that.
Besides popping up for “Prosecco and Popcorn,” Viviani has other promoting ventures to attend to. His television exposure does not end with Bravo’s “Top Chef” as he is in the works of his own production where he will be “cooking up a storm and rebranding this country one meal at a time.” Until then, event attendees may remember him with an effervescent sip, salty lips and a Roman Holiday.