Davio’s Steve DiFillippo shares the excitement of operating one of the city’s long-standing dining institutions
When Steve DiFillippo became manager and chef at a little Northern Italian Back Bay restaurant called Davio’s in 1985, few could have foreseen that Davio’s would, 32 years later, become a veritable Boston institution, with eight satellite locations in places as far off as Philadelphia and Atlanta. Inducted into the Massachusetts Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2008, DiFillippo feels very fortunate, but isn’t about to rest on his laurels. “The minute you begin to relax, you are going backward,” he says. For example, DiFillippo is one CEO you won’t see behind a desk. “I may have 800 employees, but my office is the restaurant,” he explains. “There’s nothing better than a busy restaurant, a place that’s buzzing, with guests smiling. That, to me, is so exciting.”
Davio’s has had its share of celebrity attention, serving the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Oprah Winfrey. Yet above all, it’s the kind of place that keeps regulars returning thanks to a menu that was extended when Davio’s tacked “Steakhouse” onto its “Northern Italian” description. The kitchen takes full advantage of delicious Brandt steaks from California as well as Boston’s world-class seafood without forgetting its Italian soul. Everything from the ice cream to the pasta is made fresh daily, with the open kitchen contributing to what DiFillippo calls “a three-ring circus spectacle in an upscale space.” And the space—now on Arlington Street a mere block away from the Public Garden—is indeed gorgeous. Beneath high ceilings, drinks are imbibed at the curving, 30-seat bar, while those eating lunch or dinner sit on plush chairs at tables draped in white.
Of course, the centerpiece at Davio’s is what’s on your plate. DiFillippo finds it hard to choose one favorite item on the menu, instead pulling dishes from every section. The tagliatelle Bolognese is a classic, and the New York sirloin steak and lobster risotto are beyond memorable. For anyone craving a taste of Italian hospitality, you can’t go wrong with the meatballs, a recipe passed down from DiFillippo’s mother. That is the genius of Davio’s—high standards and traditions are upheld, while the restaurant’s bustling atmosphere and varied menu are as warm and inviting as one could hope for on a wintry Boston evening.