'Top Chef All-Stars' Recap: Vindication, Italian-Style

Kim Conte

fabio top chef all starsLast night's Top Chef All-Stars might have been the most boring episode of all time were it not for the fact that one of the show's most despicable scoundrels was thoroughly embarrassed -- and looked none too happy to be doing so.

Call me spiteful, but you have to agree: There's nothing, and I mean NOTHING, as satisfying as seeing someone on reality TV who you have come to despise being verbally tasered by the judges. Am I right?

To me, Michael Isabella is like liver: I keep trying to like it, but all it does is make me vomit and leave me in a foul mood.

Ever since the beginning of Top Chef Season 6 when Isabella first made an appearance, he offended me. He's a great chef and well-respected among the other contestants to boot -- I know this to be true. But his personality is so abrasive! He's arrogant, crass, makes frequent sexist remarks in a pathetic attempt to be funny on camera, and, frankly, at least on TV, seems like an all-around a-hole.

Which is exactly why last night's Italian-themed episode was so very entertaining for me.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs were tasked with cooking a three-course Italian meal for the Italian-American owners of renowned NYC Italian restaurant, Rao's Restaurant. Also in attendance at the dinner besides the regular judges: Lorraine Bracco from Goodfellas and Anthony Bourdain.

And so began a pissing contest to determine which among the contestants had bragging rights for being the "most Italian." Antonia tells us about her Italian parents. Mike goes on and on about being Italian in New Jersey ... is this a good time to bring up the fact that the writer of this post is Italian-American as well? Probably not, but I was feeling left out ...

The only person who doesn't tell us he's Italian? Fabio! And in case you couldn't recognize his accent, he was born and raised in Florence! If anyone should be bragging about heritage, it would rightfully be him. But he's fairly quiet about it. And, instead, we have Tre telling us that people call him a "black Italian" -- WHAT?

Despite the fact that they are soooooooo Italian, Tre and Mike (along with Dale Talde) completely muddle the primi pasta course. As Bourdain so delicately put it: "How could three culinary professionals f*ck up the pasta course?" And, yet they did: Tre for risotto that was too stiff; Dale for his bland pasta; and Mike for his undercooked, eggy pasta.

All three dishes were a colossal fail. I'm not going to even try to minimize how enormously rewarding it was to hear Lorraine Bracco's reaction to it: "It just wasn't good Mike, I'm sorry." And yet, in the end, it was Tre who was sent home for his risotto.

Ever the good sport and in classic Mike fashion, he had this reaction:

I'm very surprised about Antonia winning. She just did steamed mussels. I just think that's too easy.

Yeah, but you know what, Mike? You messed up pasta. Isn't that something that should be pretty easy -- especially for someone so Italian?

Were you happy to see Tre go home?


Image via BravoTV

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