Raised in Italy, chef Fabio Viviani trained as a chef and opened more than a few restaurants and nightclubs in Florence before moving to the U.S. in 2005. A stint on “Top Chef,” where he was voted fan favorite, rocketed him to fame stateside, and his culinary empire now boasts more than a dozen unique restaurants, including Bar Siena and Bombobar in Chicago. Here, he shares his favorite Windy City restaurants on Caviar.
Opened in 2013, Siena Tavern was inspired by La Taverna, a restaurant in Sienna, Italy, that Viviani visited with his business partners. The trio was enthralled with its open kitchen, vintage decor, and the energy in the dining room. Upon returning to the states, Siena Tavern was born. While Viviani loves all his “children” equally, Siena Tavern has a special place in his heart due to its highly personal origin.
That restaurant in Italy that helped birth Siena Tavern? It is also a bar, and Viviani couldn’t get that part of the concept out of his head. So, three years later, he scratched that itch by opening Bar Siena. The menu is smaller here and it rotates regularly with dishes inspired by the regional cuisines of Italy. The handmade pizza oven is the real deal, having been imported from Italy, and it (or Bella, as it’s known) reaches temperatures of more than 600 degrees.
This polished, casual restaurant in the West Loop offers food evocative of the quality of an upscale, chef-driven restaurant. Viviani boasts of its popular burger, “If you don’t know, now you know … Bandit has the best burger in the city of Chicago (aside from my BomboBurger). The Diplomat, a burger meant for sharing, is essentially four pull-apart sliders with sweet and savory toppings, perfect to order with your friends or by yourself for any night in.”
This is a full-service, upscale deli and salumeria from the father-and-son team of Agostino and Tony Fiasche who produce some of the country’s finest cured meats under their flagship Nduja Artisans Salumeria. Of this spot that opened in late 2017, Viviani says, “As a guy that’s always on the go, popping from restaurant to restaurant in the city, sometimes you just need a delicious homemade sandwich for lunch. That is exactly what Tempesta offers — sandwiches you won’t want to miss.”
Joseph Rizza has cooked for POTUSes and FLOTUSes and never had a dish sent back. At Riverfront Prime & Provisions, another concept that Viviani launched, executive chef Rizza is raising the stakes on steak, having spent months experimenting with various dry-aging processes before the restaurant opened in 2015. His studies led to the creation of a 500-square-foot dry-aging room, lined with Himalayan rock salt, meant to enhance the rich and unique flavors of the natural beef throughout the aging process This is classic and decadent steakhouse fare that consistently receives praise from food outlets including Eater and The Infatuation.
This West Town spot changed hands and homes over the years, but the food here has been made with love and an eye toward tradition since 1983. Known for its consistency and classic dishes, Opart Thai House was honored with a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand in 2014 and it remains a neighborhood favorite.
Viviani is passionate about fresh ingredients. He’s also a fitness enthusiast who has held wellness brunches at Siena Tavern. So it’s not surprising that he loves a healthful, colorful sweetgreen bowl (We do, too!). Started in August 2007 by three college students, sweetgreen has expanded nationwide and faithfully adheres to its mission of reimagining fast food for a new era, offering affordable slow food for all.
There are several locations of Parson’s Chicken & Fish to serve your comfort-food cravings. The spots were named one of the Top 100 Chicago restaurants for delivery by the Chicago Tribune in the fall of 2021, an impressive feat for a restaurant that has been open for almost a decade. Their fried food is fun and, yes, very good. Fans of Breaking Bad will appreciate Parson’s mascot: an El Camino.