Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Published January 17

Fabio is coming!

Not the Fabio on your romance novel, with the billowing hair and large quantities of artificial butter. This Fabio, in all likelihood, uses real butter. And olive oil.

Fabio Viviani, the charming Top Chef alum known for appearances on Good Morning America and The Chew, announced last week he’s planning to open a restaurant in downtown Tampa. Osteria is due in spring on the bottom floor of luxury high-rise Nine15. Viviani is partnering with the team behind Tampa’s Franklin Manor.

In other major food news, the famed New York burger joint Shake Shack appears to be heading at least somewhat close to Tampa, near the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota. 

As food critic Laura Reiley wrote in her story announcing the news, Viviani joins a growing roster of big-name chefs either coming to or sniffing around our area:

"Iron Chefs Masaharu Morimoto and Geoffrey Zakarian, author and megastar Emeril Lagasse and Food Network notable Donatella Arpaia have all been mentioned as potential comers. Robert Irvine had an abortive foray some years back, then Michael Mina took the plunge with Locale Market in St. Petersburg, and we’re around the corner from barbecue champ Dr. BBQ showing us how ’cue is done, also in St. Pete."

Sigh. The passage leaves us having, and it leaves us wanting. If we could design a region of culinary heavy hitters, who would be among them?

Star burgers

We need some very famous burgers, okay? Sarasota is good, but come a little bit closer, Shake Shack. We'd also take a Bobby’s Burgers Palace from chef and I-can’t-turn-on-Food-Network-without-seeing-him star Bobby Flay. Add a little In-N-Out, a Cook Out, something to really take our burger scene up a notch.

David Chang

The word Momofuku signals immediate salivation. I ate at Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar this summer in New York, and it was not only a taste explosion, but a wild vibe watching sweaty chefs work from across the noodle counter. Even better in my book is his restaurant group’s dessert joint, Milk Bar, home of the greatest cookie of all time (the corn cookie, which you can order online at for delivery to your door). Here’s hoping he can bring Milk Bar’s owner and dessert mastermind, Christina Tosi.

Norman Van Aken

Famous Florida chef Van Aken has operated restaurants in just about every corner of the state — except ours. Mount Dora, Key West, Coral Gables, Miami, Orlando. Is it something we said? Did we forget to shower?

Carla Hall

Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen, the Top Chef alum’s fried chicken restaurant in New York, closed after a year of challenges that included an electrical fire. Hall has talked about the challenges (and sticker shock) of running an eatery in New York. We’d welcome her to a fresh start in Tampa Bay. We’re much more gentle, and very hungry to boot.