I first met the Chef at the soft
opening of Bistro One West late this past winter, as he was was taking a short hiatus from his
kitchen duties to see how the guests were enjoying his special
samples of menu items (they were, by the way, a huge hit!).
The brief conversation, combined with the incredible eye candy being
passed by the smartly-dressed wait-staff, told me that this was a
man with whom I wanted to share some conversation; his story was a
The Chef grew up in Upper Darby, a
suburb of west Philadelphia, and originally started out to get a
degree in electronics, cooking at various venues to pay for his
education. Turns out he enjoyed cooking more than anything
else. That eventually led to stint at The Culinary Institute
of America, where "the competition was really tough", and he needed
to learn a lot, very quickly as they "threw a lot at me"; the
chefs there told him if he could "retain 10% of what we teach you,
you're already at least 50% ahead of anyone else that you will come
in to work with." He loved to learn and absorbed the
information like a sponge.
the years he has added to and enhanced his knowledge base immensely,
gaining experience at restaurants of all sizes and types, having
first worked at several restaurants in New York, followed by
prestigious venues in Florida and Hawaii before landing at Trattoria
No. 10 in Chicago as a Sous Chef, where he was quickly promoted to
Executive Chef. After a few years he left to pursue other
opportunities, but found himself back at Trattoria No. 10, where, as
fate would have it, he met then General Manager George Guggeis, with
whom he would ultimately partner to create Bistro One West.
The chemistry between the two was natural, as both Guggeis and
D'Avico are easy going, but both perfectionists who pay very close
attention to detail.
D'Avico likes the layout of Bistro
One West, and enjoys the fact that, "from a diner's point of view,
every seat has some sort of a window view, and you can't beat that;
there's not a bad seat in the house." As with any kitchen, the
one at Bistro One West has its challenges: "spaces are a bit tight
and the angles are small, sometimes making things difficult, but
time will take care of that. I've loved the spot from the
moment we moved out here. You've got the river there, the
openness, and of course the deck. And it doesn't get any
I asked about the pace of things
so far at the restaurant. D'Avico's reply was that it had
started slowly but things were really starting to pick up now,
especially with the opening of the deck. Right now he is
pretty much doing everything and, "some days are long -- right now
working some pretty goofy hours -- other days feel like only a few
minutes have passed." The nice thing about food is that it's a
team event, you're all working together. I've got some good
guys in the kitchen now and they're working hard. To be the
Chef and to have your team working... with your thoughts... is a
much of his past background with Italian cuisine, D'Avico has
developed a unique menu that is "Fresh American"; selections are
comprised of what he can obtain fresh from local and regional
farmers. "There are lots of seasons to cooking, and being able
to utilize the bounties that come through... it's always a fun thing
to do" And do it he does, with a flair with which many chefs
are not only unfamiliar, but uncomfortable. When asked about
his forte, the Chef just smiled and said he loves sauté. "Just
give me twelve burners, a bunch of pans and get outta my way!"
Those who have enjoyed dinner at Bistro One West have seen the
Chef's sauté creations and know exactly what he means -- from pan to
plate to palate, the results are exquisite.
As a final question, I simply wanted
to know if Chef D'Avico had any final thoughts to share. His
answer came as easily as the menu ideas seem to flow from his head:
"I like what I do. I like where I'm doing it. I just want
people to be able to have a nice, comfortable place to go where they can
relax and have a great meal with great value. I think that's what
we have here."
From where I sit,
that's exactly what Chef D'Avico and Bistro One West have; they should
be there enjoying the view for a long, long time.
Please Note: Bisto One
West is now closed.