Steve DiFillippo is a different kind of celebrity chef — famous among the famous more than he is among the general public.
He’ll have trouble keeping a low profile here in 2013, a year shaping up as the busiest in the history of Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse, the franchise he’s nurtured since 1985.
Look for his new casual-concept Davio’s Cucina, which opened yesterday in Chestnut Hill, upcoming steakhouses in suburban Boston and in Manhattan, even a new book out later this year.
But you won’t see DiFillippo’s faced plastered all over TV or his name slapped on the marquee in front of his restaurants.
Instead, A-list friends seek him out, even battle for the best tables at his restaurants, most notably his flagship Davio’s on Arlington Street near Park Plaza.
Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen are among his best customers, while business executives and globe-trotting rockers like Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen dine at Davio’s when they roll into town.
“We take care of our famous friends without making a big deal about it,” DiFillippo said.
Power players know they’ll get a great meal amid much-coveted peace and quiet from staff trained to protect the privacy of guests.
He’s quietly parlayed a great dining experience and celebrity connections into an enviable business that’s exploding in 2013.
Davio’s Cucina is a 250-seat casual Italian eatery next to the new Showcase SuperLux, an upscale dinner-theater concept in Chestnut Hill. It’s a partnership with National Amusements president Shari Redstone, the media-mogul daughter of multi-billionaire Sumner Redstone, and a Davio’s regular.
“We wanted an alternative reason for people to come to the theater so we reached out to Steve,” said Redstone. “If he had said no, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Look for burgers, pizza and $7 sfizi: quick, inexpensive appetizers (steamed mussels, arancini, baby octopus) for the theater crowd. You’ll also find old Davio’s favorites, including center-cut filet mignon and its famous Philly cheese steak spring rolls.
“This is not a one-and-done deal,” DiFillippo said. “They (National Amusements) want us to do more.”
Meanwhile, two new Davio’s steakhouses are set to open later this year: the first in DiFillippo’s hometown of Lynnfield and the second in midtown Manhattan.
Davio’s arrival in New York City has already attracted the attention of Gotham’s most famous figures: DiFillippo took a call about the restaurant from former Yankees manager Joe Torre while talking with the Herald last week.
Finally, DiFillippo releases his first book later this year: “It’s All About The Guest: Exceeding Expectations in Business and in Life the Davio’s Way.”
The forward is written by one of DiFillippo’s most powerful pals: Patriots owner Robert Kraft. It’s a relationship that precedes Kraft’s celebrity as owner of the marquee NFL franchise.
“I first met Steve in the mid-’80s, shortly after he bought his first restaurant,” writes Kraft, in an advance copy of the book. “Steve loved to create great meals. I loved to eat great meals. We became fast friends and have been ever since.”
Davio’s Cucina Fettuccini Carbonara
1 lb. fettuccini, fresh or dried
2 T. olive oil
4 oz. pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 c. heavy cream
2 large eggs
1 1/4 c. parmigiano-reggiano cheese, finely grated
Freshly ground black pep- per to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (al dente). While pasta is boiling, heat olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and saute 3 minutes, until crisp and fat is rendered. Toss garlic into fat and saute less than 1 minute until it’s a golden color. Add cream and reduce by half. Drain cooked pasta and reserve water. Add hot pasta to saute pan and toss for 30 seconds. Beat eggs and 1 cup cheese in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove pan from heat and pour egg/cheese mixture into creamy pasta. Toss quickly with pasta until sauce thickens. Thin sauce if desired with reserved pasta water. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Mound pasta in warm serving bowls and garnish with remaining cheese. Serves 8.
Davio’s Cucina Semolina Polenta Cake
1 3/4 c. water
1 T. unsalted butter
1 T. roasted garlic puree
3/4 c. semolina
1/3 c. parmesan, grated
1 T. parsley, chopped
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper, ground
2 T. canola oil
Add water, butter and roasted garlic to a nonstick sauce pot. Whisk well. Place on high heat.
When water is boiling, slowly pour in semolina, whisking vigorously until incorporated. Turn heat to low. Cover and cook 8 minutes. Stir well at 4-minute mark. Polenta will be very thick. Remove from heat. Add parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. Incorporate well and quickly. Pour polenta into a glass baking dish to 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 4 hours to set. When set, carefully invert onto a cutting board. Cut into circles with pastry cutter or thin glass. Place a saute pan on high heat. Add canola oil. When hot, place polenta cakes in pan and brown both sides. Serve hot with a favorite Italian dish. Serves 2.