Jason Fabini's Night in the Kitchen
Since Jason Taylor arrived, it's been easy sport for writers to suggest that the dancing and dashing end somehow transcends the Platonic ideal of the lineman; that he's nobility and his fellow lineman are serfs, that he's The Palm and his fellow linemen are Burger King; that he's the Internet and his fellow linemen are newspapers.
And sure, Taylor has his fancy moves, but answer me this: has he ever made a triumphant appearance in a dining room on a winter night, having prepared Panzanella, Chicken Cacciatore and Costolette Alla Zingara for a crowd of 50 satisfied diners?
"These were paying customers," said Jason Fabini, when questioned about this year's Jason Fabini Dinner Night at the Venice Restaurant in his home town of Fort Wayne. "You know, these weren't just people I invited over so if it tastes [bad] it doesn't matter. There were people out there I didn't know. After every course I would go out there and ask them how their food was. The responses were good. I told my wife to be honest with me and she said it was good. Who knows?"
Who knows? How about Judy Finley, a part-owner of the family restaurant that helped grow Fabini into a 309-pound 11-year NFL veteran. Finley's son is among Fabini's best friends; she was quite familiar with his cooking prowess and finally invited the Redskins guard into her kitchen this spring.
"Oh it was great; I mean, it was VERY, very good," she told me. "It was just neat to see, because he was so passionate about it. He went around and talked to everybody and just was so worried that everybody was pleased with everything."
Or ask Fabini's mother, Madeline Lombardo, whose Neopolitan grandparents help inspire Fabini's work. Lombardo was initially surprised when her athletic son took to cooking, but as he improved his craft she sat back and enjoyed the Linguini with Clam Sauce, the Seared Tuna with Ginger Soy Sauce, the made-from-scratch Bolognese. She was a proud customer at Jason Fabini Dinner Night, and offered an entirely positive review.
"Everybody was just so surprised that he did this, that somebody that big, who plays football all the time, can cook like that," she said. "The football, I'm so proud of him, but to see him do this too? I mean, going into a restaurant with 50-some people, going the night before and preparing, doing the whole thing? That was pretty amazing too. I am so proud of him, I can't tell you."
Or ask one of his impressed teammates, like well-known griller Randy Thomas, the man Fabini replaced last year.
"He did WHAT?" Thomas said, when asked about Jason Fabini Dinner Night. "He probably ordered it all from Pizza Hut."
Ok, fine, don't ask Thomas. Anyhow, Fabini actually planned the menu himself, starting with a wine tasting and appetizers like Bruschetta, a cheese tray, olives and scallions, moving on to Pasta Fagioli and Tuscan bread salad and then the main courses of Chicken Cacciotore and pork chops with cherry peppers and that Bolognese. Dessert was, of course, mini cannolis.
The event drew 75 reservations, although a nasty snow storm kept down attendance. Fabini, who was assisted by his son Jacob, spent several hours in the kitchen the night before and arrived seven hours before his customers.
"It's different if you're cooking at home: 'Hey, all right, we'll eat at this time,' or 'It's gonna be a little longer.' " he said. "You're cooking for that many people, they're out there waiting for their food, you have to not only make it taste good but you want to get it out there on time.... There IS pressure. In every realm, there's pressure on everything you do. I did feel the pressure of wanting it to taste good and be on time, you know? But it's nothing a little wine can't do back in the kitchen."
Posted by: jonthefisherman | July 28, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse
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