Boston, MA - There’s a certain contradiction when it comes to top name chefs. Regionally, nationally or internationally. On the one hand, food is… well, universal. Eating is a shared experience. One which crosses boundaries and is as innate as the need for oxygen or your placated ego. But with big draw chefs? You’re buying into a brand. A reputation. An image. And essentially, a caricature. Their cooking might indeed command all the accolades and praise heaped upon them. But more frequently than not it’s at the cost of any sort human depth.
If you can understand that, you can understand what it must be like to be Gilligan or Tony Manero.
Tiffani Faison may have come to the public’s attention through her numerous appearances on Top Chef, but she’s far from a one dimensional brand. She’s never been afraid to speak her mind; most visibly when she addressed gender bias in the food industry in a 2018 article for Eater. She may not (in her own words) “in fact, be the devil”. But when criticism is levelled at her as a result of a television show, it not only deflects from both her skills as a chef and her vision as a restaurateur; it shows that most people have far too much time on their hands.
Faison's been successfully operating three different local ventures (Sweet Cheeks, Tiger Mama and Fool’s Errand) since 2011, with two additional offerings scheduled for the opening of High Street Place in the fall. But it’s her most recent creation, Orfano, which has been garnering a consistent buzz since its announcement in January.
“It’s kind of reversing the trope—if the women were gangsters, not just the nonnas all the time,” Faison told Boston magazine earlier this month about her vision for Orfano, which opened this past Monday. “The goal is the most delicious food we can make through rose-colored Italian-American glasses.”
The atmosphere has been described as having"high-touch details," with "bow-tied, tuxedoed waitstaff" and "glittering gold chandeliers casting warm light across a pearly-topped bar and lush, eggplant-colored booths." Which is a flowery way of saying you probably won't hear Louis Prima, or be served bowls of spaghetti bolognese by some poor schlub paid to a fedora in a vain approximation of mafia chic like certain restaurants in the North End.
The menu at Orfano includes items such as tuna carpaccio served with lemon puree and vermouth in a martini glass; Clams Orfano, a house specialty made with chopped clams, peperonata, garlic & herbs; monkfish piccata with grilled lemon, miso and capers; fusilli alla vodka with Calabrian chili and parmesan, in addition to steaks, chops and prime rib. Perhaps more impressively? A rolling martini cart with drinks shaken tableside.
“Italian food is not missing in Boston, but it was what I grew up in the industry cooking,” Faison told Forbes in April. ”First learning at Olive’s, then modern Italian at Rocca. It’s a piece of my life, and it’s a little bit self-indulgent, but I love this food and love cooking it.”
And if anyone’s earned the right to be self indulgent, it’s Tiffani Faison.
Orfano is located at 1391 Boylston St in Boston and is open Sunday - Thursday from 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm and Friday from Saturday from 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm. For more information, visit orfanoboston.com