Foodie Destination

Morongo Casino Resort & Spa has partnered with Chef Fabio Viviani to create a new buffet concept, The Marketplace, where every culinary desire can be fulfilled.

February 10, 2022
Story by Jim Powers
The Marketplace Morongo Casino

Sukuri will feature Pan-Asian cuisine, one of seven restaurants in The Marketplace at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon.
RENDERINGS/PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY MORONGO CASINO RESORT & SPA

You’ve heard of vacation destinations.

Chef Fabio Viviani wants to borrow that concept for food. But it’s not the first time he has done this. A familiar face in the Coachella Valley from his appearances at Palm Desert Food and Wine, Viviani is on the cusp of opening The Marketplace at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, a foodie’s destination dream featuring seven restaurants in one spot.

“It provides you with a sit-down restaurant experience under one 25,000 square foot roof,” he explains, “but you don’t have the limitation of one cuisine, because you could get an appetizer in Italy, then move to Japan and get some sushi. Then, get some ribs, and then, go back for some tacos, right? So it gives the patrons the ability to experience different cuisine under one roof for one access price.”

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The Marketplace will cover 25,000 square feet and replaces Potrero Canyon Buffet.

The Marketplace will include seven stops: Al Comal (Mexican food), Pork & Waffles (barbecue and Southern comfort cuisine), Prime Cuts (steaks, chops, and chicken), Mercato Centrale (Italian), Pescato (fish, seafood, oyster bar) , Sukiru (Pan-Asian), and Sweet Things (desserts).

Viviani’s restaurant empire, which owns and operated dozens of restaurants, already includes similar food destinations at casinos in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. California is where Viviani opened his first U.S.-based restaurants — Café Firenze, Firenze Osteria, Bar Firenze, and Mercato — all in the Los Angeles area. So it’s only appropriate the state has called him back to forge this tasty endeavor.

“I love this area,” Vivani says. “And it’s a good fit. It’s a captivated audience. It’s an easy access point for a lot of people living around the casino.”

And Viviani believes the diverse menu at The Marketplace is a match to an audience from varied backgrounds. “Southern California and this area of the state, it’s a big melting pot that is very diverse,” says the former Top Chef “Fan Favorite”. “And we’re not in the business of pleasing a portion of the crowds. We love to please them all.”

Viviani chats further with Palm Springs Life about The Marketplace, slated to open this spring.

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Fabio Viviani is a familar face to the desert after appearing at Palm Desert Food and Wine.

What attracted you to doing business with Morongo Casino?

Richard St. Jean, who is the COO at Morongo, is a former business associate of mine. We have nebeen friends for awhile. So the tribe put out for bid to come in with ideas and ways of bringing the old buffet (the former Potrero Canyon Buffet) to a post-COVID environment with great food, good vibes, and everything. So we took our shot, and we won.

What have you learned from your other restaurant ventures that you were able to apply to The Marketplace?

If you ask a couple that has nine children, the only things that they are good to go with the five, six, seven, eight, or nine is clothing. Everything else is like a hand grenade,. You don’t know in what way it’s going to explode. There is nothing you’re going to learn about opening a new venue. There are new challenges. The one things that we learn is that you can control only the things you can control. We’re an educated hospitality developer. We take care of our people. We build good culture. So everything else is out of our hand. So yeah, we learn a lot of things, but most of them, it doesn’t apply in every new venue. It is what it is.

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The Marketplace will encourage communal dining.

What is it like trying to open The Marketplace in the shadow of the pandemic?

So all we can do is to do our best to provide good entertainment, good food, and good service, while keeping everybody as safe as possible. It’s been hard to predict. And I spent my entire business life trying to anticipate, so I don’t have to react. Right now, it’s just what’s happening, right? You can’t anticipate this.

What will the experience be like for diners?

You can build your own culinary journey. The food will be prepared in front of you. It won’t be sitting there or in big trays. The Marketplace will be trailblazing and not following any trend. We are reinventing the entire experience. There is going to be communal seating, but you’re not going to be anywhere closer than you would have been gaming on the floor with somebody. And there is no touching utensil. There is no sharing. There is none of that. We provide the beverage. We provide the drinks.

VIDEO: Chef Fabio Vivani previews The Marketplace.

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