Gwen Fowler



Italian partners keep crowds, each other, laughing

Posted 5/18/2010 11:09:00 AM
Fabio Viviani and Jacopo Falleni are longtime business partners and best buddies. If they decide to give up cooking, they might want to try a comedy act. During their demonstration at Taste, a food show in Myrtle Beach, they kept the crowd laughing. But the two of them laughed most of all.

Viviani’s message during his cooking demonstration was all about the beauty of simple foods.

“You don’t want to reinvent tradition. It would be like me telling you that there is a better way to make babies.”

He cautioned about taking care where you buy fresh produce “because sometimes farmers use chemicals and they spray those chemicals to keep the bugs away.”

Ask yourself this question before you eat produce that has been treated with pesticides, he said. “If a bug was not comfortable eating this salad, should you be comfortable eating it?”

Don’t worry if you see a little bug hole in a spinach leaf, he said. “Better to have a hole in the leaf than a dead bug on the side.”

But the two young Italians really shone when they were together. Despite their banter, much of it making fun of each other’s slightly broken English, it’s clear they love each other.

“If I go to jail, he will bail me out, and he probably was the one who put me in jail,” Viviani said while introducing his business partner. The two own Firenze Osteria in North Hollywood, Calif.

Fallini explains their division of labor: “He takes care of the food and I take care of all the beverages.”

They’ve been friends since they were about 12, growing up in Italy.

Viviani joked about the problem people have pronouncing Jacopo, which starts with a “Y” sound rather than a “J” sound. Sometimes he’s called Jackpot or Yahoo, Viviani said.

While Falleni was showing how to make one of his specialty martinis, Tranquility, which features cucumbers, pureed pineapple, Triple Sec and a generous amount of vodka, Viviani worked at the counter behind him, making a sign that he held up behind Falleni.

“He don’t speak English … sorry.”

Viviani, a finalist on season five of Top Chef, has a new book coming out in the fall, “My Son is On Google: Recipes and Memories from an Italian Mom.”

The name came about after he bought his mom a laptop and showed her how to use Google to watch him on TV.

“Now she thinks that Google is the name of the TV show that I’m on, and she tells everybody, ‘My son is on Google.’”