Northshore Magazine

Northshore November 2019

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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NORTHSHOREMAG.COM 62 NOVEMBER 2019 I N - D E P T H PHOTOGRAPH BY JARED CHARNEY It's a warm weekday morning at Davio's restaurant in Boston and the icemaker and air conditioning have both conked out. "Well, there go our sales for the day," says chef-owner Steve DiFillippo, referring to the cost to repair them. He shrugs, knowing it's all part of owning a restaurant—or in his case, twelve, as of this fall's opening of Davio's in the Seaport District and one at Boston Logan International Airport. Success can be elusive in the restaurant industry. According to Full Service Restaurant magazine, 60 percent of restaurants don't make it past their first year, and 80 percent close up shop within five years. The fact that DiFillippo has steadily grown his Davio's empire for over three decades, and will have opened 15 Davio's locations by 2021, says he must be doing something right. "A restaurant has to have good food, but it also has to have great hospitality," says the Lynnfield native who now lives in Wenham. "But hospitality isn't just about the person who walks through that front door. In my book [It's all About the Guest: Exceeding Expectations in Business and in Life, the Davio's Way (2013)], I talk about the inner guest, because if you don't have a great team, if you don't have great chemistry in the restaurant, if you don't take care of your inner guest—I don't like the term 'employee'—you don't have a business. You might be able to fake it for a little bit, but you're not going to fake it for 34 years." Ever since he was a boy growing up in Lynnfield, DiFillippo imagined owning a restaurant. "There were three or four restaurant owners in my neighborhood and they all had nice houses, and I always thought, 'Gee, they work hard, but they seem like they have nice lives.' I also loved restaurants. I loved Chef-Owner Steve DiFillippo of Davio's makes every guest feel like part of the family. BY VICTORIA ABBOTT RICCARDI PERFECT HOST cooking. I loved serving people. As a kid, it was the coolest thing when people came over to the house and I got to cook for them or I got to clear plates and clean them. I know it seems bizarre, but that to me was the coolest thing," he says, laughing. To test the restaurant waters professionally, DiFillippo began working at Seaside in Boston's Faneuil Hall during college. He tried every position, ultimately deciding cooking was his passion when he was appointed executive chef. After graduating from Boston University in 1982 with a marketing degree, he attended Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Three years later, he bought his first Davio's restaurant at the age of 24. As DiFillippo tells it, the restaurant was sinking fast. Equipment was broken and the food subpar. But DiFillippo knew he could salvage the business, quickly surmising that, as much as he loved cooking, he'd be far more effective working the front of the house. "Growing up, I always paid attention. I would go into businesses [and look behind the scenes] because I was so fascinated by how things worked. Even to this day, I walk right into restaurants and to the back, because I am always trying to learn something. I try to be as humble as possible. I'm very fortunate here now with my life, but I don't know it all. I re- ally just want to keep learning, keep listening and asking questions." "I have great mentors, too," DiFillippo adds. "I learned a lot from my football coach in high Steve DiFillippo puts is employees and guests first at his thriving restaurants.

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