Many foodies know Fabio Viviani as a contestant from season five of Bravo’s “Top Chef” (where he earned the title of “Fan Favorite)–his vivacious personality and charming accent made him instantly likeable while his culinary know-how brought him far in the competition. And what’s Fabio up to now? In addition to running several successful restaurant ventures in LA, Chicago, and Miami and having just released a new cookbook, Fabio recently became the brand ambassador for Bauli.
For those unfamiliar, Bauli–which is an 80-year-old family business–is the creator of authentic, Italian confectionery goods–some of their most popular offerings include the Pandoro and Panettone cakes, which are long-time holiday favorite (along with specialty cakes, croissants, cupcakes, and more). The Panettone is a sweet bread, loaded with candy citron, lemon zest, and raisins. The bread is baked in a cylindrical mold, giving it a beautiful, distinctive look. Traditionally prepared for Christmas and New Year in Italy. The Pandoro is a traditional Christmas bread from Verona. The name Pandoro is attributed to its golden yellow color, which comes from the egg yolks that are baked in the bread. High-quality butter and very fresh eggs give this traditional cake an unmistakable inviting aroma.
Perfectly timed to the upcoming holiday season, Bauli recently held a New York launch event at Cipriani Wall Street–where new Bauli brand ambassador Fabio Viviani gave guests the inside scoop on concocting delicious desserts using the Pandoro and Panettone cakes from Bauli. We also had the chance to catch up with Fabio–read on to get the dish on why he loves Bauli, his holiday entertaining tips, eating healthy, and more!
Plus, scroll to the end of this post for some yummy Bauli recipes!
How did you get involved with Bauli?
It’s a funny scenario. Because, moving to American and trying to create a restaurant brand lead to the opportunity to get into the TV end of the business spectrum. I’d never thought about it, but that end of the spectrum not only enhanced the restaurant aspect of it, but gave me the opportunity to meet people and brands that I recognize from my background in Italy and from my childhood. I grew up with stuff like the Pandoro and the Panettone. Though I’m not from the region where the Panettone originally [came from], the Pandoro and these cakes are what you do for the holidays in Italy. Then this company approached me and said: “We have this product. And the product reflects the principles that you have in your food—fresh ingredients, old-school technique, nothing fake, nothing artificial, long preparation—it’s 40 hours to make one.” And said: “Okay, what are we talking about?” “Bauli!” And I’m like: “It’s a pleasure! A pleasure and an honor, of course!” Because, when you think about it, the most important thing for me is—business is important, of course it is, because I moved to this country for that reason—the ability to work with companies that I not only appreciate and respect, but also that have the same philosophy in creating food.
Do you have a favorite Bauli cake?
You know, Pandoro is my favorite—but I think that the Panettone is everyone else’s favorite—for the simple reason that I’m a purist. I open the box, I get a slice, and I have it with my milk. The only thing is, raison [like in the Panettone] with milk is not the best match, but if you like the raisins and dried fruit, than I guess you’re a Panettone fan. But if you like a more clean, lean kind of flavor, the Pandoro is the one for you. Plus, I enjoy very much the shaking of the box. The way it works is that you open the box, and there’s a plastic wrap and there’s a bag of sugar. You open the bag of sugar and you shake it up and it coats the cake with powdered sugar—because it’s made with real butter.
Do you have any tips for families with children who are entertaining big groups around the holidays?
It’s all a matter of headache-free to me. That’s one of the simplest things we do with the [Bauli cakes]—for the holiday, you really want to be able to enjoy the party as well. If celebrating for the holiday means that you have work two days before prepping and three days after for cleaning, eating just isn’t fun. So, pick a crowd-pleaser and make it simple. It’s all about family and staying together—it’s not a showoff contest about who does the biggest celebration. It’s a matter of getting together with the people you like, having some good food on the table, a bottle of wine—lots of wine, you gotta have wine—and just celebrating. I always say: “Keep it simple, you don’t have to go overboard!” Because the people at your house for the holidays are your family!
You written a lot on your blog and website about health and nutrition. How can people balance the line between indulging for the holidays but still keeping things healthy?
Here’s the truth: I come from a country where low-fat, no-sugar, lean-stuff doesn’t exist. In my country, everything is real butter, all-sugar, everything. We have one thing, that America is getting into too, and that’s moderation. Moderation is the key—it’s not substitution. You don’t want to get rid of the pleasure—a slice of cake at the end of a meal isn’t the problem. The problem is the continuity of the behavior that lead to aspects of nutrition that are very unbalanced. If everyday, you would prepare your meal, rather than eat something with processed chemicals and artificial ingredients, you’ll be better off. The problem isn’t a glass of wine, it’s three bottles of wine. It’s not a plate of pasta, the problem is 2 lb of pasta when you eat pasta. The problem is not a cake, the problem is whole cake versus a slice of cake. I think for health and consciousness, moderation is better than substitution. Because when you deprive your body of something, it’s going to miss it—the moment you bring it back, it goes twice as hard on you. Moderation is really the key for a healthier lifestyle.
What’s new with you right now?
We just opened Siena Tavern in South Beach—one of my new restaurant locations. I just launched my new wine collection, Fabio Viviani Wines. We have a Cabernet, a Chardonay, and we’re implementing the line now with Chianti, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir. It’s a busy end of the year—we have a new show coming up and I just released a new cookbook, Fabio’s American Kitchen…you can read it, and if you don’t like it, gift it! Next year we have five more restaurants coming, we have a lot of stuff going on. It’s good. It’s been a great year and it will be a better one next year!
Panettone Bread Pudding
In this recipe, Bauli Panettone turns into a silky custard that contrasts with a generous expanse of lovely golden brown crispness on top. Baking it in a “water bath” keeps it moist. Serve this elevated but easy twist on bread pudding after a holiday dinner, or simply as the ultimate comfort food.
1½ Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Bauli Panettone
3 cups heavy cream
8 extra-large egg yolks
2/3 cup real maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
Whipped heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Remove crust from the Panettone and cut into 1" squares.
3. On a large baking sheet, arrange the Panettone squares in an even layer, and place in center of oven. Bake until crisp and lightly toasted. Remove from oven and transfer to a buttered 8"x10"x2" dish.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon until fluffy. Add the cream and whisk until well blended. Pour mixture over the toasted Panettone squares and set aside until soft and thoroughly soaked with the custard, turning them occasionally.
5. Cover the baking dish with buttered foil, piercing foil with a few small holes to allow steam to escape. Set the pudding inside a larger baking dish and then place in oven, adding hot water to the larger pan until it reaches halfway up. Bake for about 1 hour or until the custard is just set—an inserted toothpick should come out clean. Remove dish from water bath and place on a rack to cool slightly.
6. Dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon, and cut into 2½" squares. Top each with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprig of mint, if it’s in season.
Makes 10-12 servings
Panettone “Shortcake” with Berries and Orange Ricotta
This version of a classic American dessert takes strawberry shortcake to new heights, with sweet Bauli Panettone and a mix of fresh berries. We’ve also intensified the whipped cream with Italian ricotta and grated orange rind. Buono!
1 lb. ricotta cheese
Grated rind of 1 orange
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
2 ½ pints fresh strawberries (sliced), raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
2–3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Bauli Panettone
3 Tbsp orange liqueur
Powdered sugar for topping
1. Stir together the ricotta, grated orange rind and powdered sugar until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream, and chill until ready to serve.
2. In another bowl, toss the berries gently with the granulated sugar to taste.
3. Carefully cut the Panettone horizontally into three 1-inch-thick round slices.
4. Place one slice on a serving plate. Brush with 1 Tbsp. of the orange liqueur. Spread with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Top with 1/3 of the berries.
5. Brush the second slice of Panettone with 1 Tbsp. orange liqueur, and layer it with another 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, and 1/3 of the berries. Repeat with the third slice of Panettone and the remaining toppings. Dust with powdered sugar.
Makes 8 servings.
Raspberry Jam & Hazelnut Spread Stuffed Panettone French Toast
This is like the most indulgent peanut butter and jelly sandwich you’ve ever had—and you get to eat it for breakfast. Make it for special occasions like Christmas, New Year's Day…or laundry day (in other words, any day).
For the whipped cream:
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
For the toast:
½ cup milk or cream
Pinch of cinnamon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
4 slices Bauli Panettone, left out overnight if possible
2 Tbsp. butter
For the filling:
¼ cup hazelnut spread
¼ cup raspberry jam or preserves
1. Whip the cream and vanilla with a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and mix until incorporated.
2. Whisk together the milk, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Soak Panettone slices in mixture for 30 seconds on each side. Place bread into the pan and cook until bottom is golden and crisp. Turn, and repeat with other side. Repeat with all of the bread, keeping it warm in a 200° oven.
3. Spread 2 tablespoons of hazelnut spread and 2 tablespoons of jam on two of the bread slices. Top with remaining slices and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Serve warm.
Makes 2 French toast sandwiches.