Siena Tavern’s Coming to Miami’s China Grill Space
Chef Fabio Viviani Says He'll Succeed Where Others Haven't Dared to Try
Fabio Viviani is certain he can put a white elephant into the black.
The charismatic 2-time runner-up on Top Chef is bringing his runaway Chicago hit restaurant Siena Tavern to South Beach, trying to bring back to life the cavernous China Grill spot on 5th and Washington this coming Fall. The restaurant is inspired by a Siena, Italy spot called “La Taverna” which made every dish fresh to order – including breads, pastas and desserts, and has a months-long list to get in, A concept that doesn’t fly in restaurant-saturated Miami.
So how is this crazy Italian going to fill 400 seats a night in some of the most expensive real estate in South Beach without charging Miamians more than they can afford? And how is he going to keep them coming back? And, seriously, is he FINALLY going to open a restaurant with good service?
He told us, with a few four-letter words peppered in, and we’re excited.
In Chicago, a lot of people didn’t do well there because Chicago people are loyal to Chicago chefs. Big groups came from New York and said “Let me show you how we do it in New York” and they got kicked out to the curb.
So instead of saying hey, let me show you how I do things, I said hey, I’ m here, let me know what I can do for you. I did all the charities, I did all the events, I did stuff in the community, and after a year and a half you can’t get a reservation a month ahead. So I’m gonna do the same thing in Miami.
Just outsourcing the ingredients from 100 miles from the restaurant to support the local community, it will make drastic, drastic change to the way you think about the menu to how you approach putting it together.
How have you gone about putting together this menu?
Some dishes you go, like, holy shit this is really good, some of them you’re like, this is a good dish, I wouldn’t order again. If it’s not like a Holy Shit dish for 75% of the people, it doesn’t go on the menu.
A big complaint about restaurants in Miami now is that they’ve gotten so overpriced. How are you addressing that?
We’re not trying to kill anybody, we just want to be priced enough to scare away the kind of people we don’t like, which is the people that go places for $2 tequila shot to get hammered and cause a disaster. We want people to come here and not worry about somebody elbowing you in the face while you’re eating dinner.
The concept of investing in human resources isn’t something that’s caught on in Miami. But we’re gonna take care of our employees if they’re taking care of our guests.
The same way we do with our menu, we do with our staff. We hire 100 to keep 75 to choose 50 to open with 35. And we’re gonna go through a lot of training.
In 80% of Miami the usual budget for opening a restaurant is 2 weeks, and hopefully out of that you get a good bartender, a good server, you get cute girls and cute guys behind the bar.
We’re not in the business of beauty. We’re in the business of service. Server training is 2 months.
Ok, everybody wants to know how you plan to fill this old China Grill space with 400 seats every night.
If you please the locals you’re gonna survive. Because Miamians don’t go to South Beach, because you don’t fit in. Everywhere you go it’s like “Untz untz untz” and they’re taking shots of tequila and its dirty.
No, that’s not Miami. Miami’s good, Miami’s nice, there’s good fucking people in Miami.
So if you’re coming to Siena Tavern and somebody is like hey buddy, what’s up, did you make a reservation? No? Ok give me 15 minutes, go have a glass of wine on me at the bar and I’ll make it happen.
Also, I’m not in the “no” business. You know when you go out and you ask oh, can you leave this out, and they say, no, you can’t modify it. Well, great, if you can’t modify, you’re probably gonna be out of business. Those are what I call the 6 month restaurants.
You’ve got La Locanda and Frutali la Bufala across the street. How do you plan to compete with them since they’re so established?
And the most Miami response to that, obviously, is “Why should we?”
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