This may be Steve DiFillippo’s busiest summer yet. Beginning with the June 11 opening of Davio’s Cucina in Chestnut Hill, the restaurateur is expanding his empire from four to seven establishments, while also publishing his first book, “It’s All About the Guest: Exceeding Expectations in Business and in Life the Davio’s Way,” in September. In August, DiFillippo, a resident of Wenham, will open a Davio’s location in his hometown of Lynnfield, followed by another big market outpost in New York to pair with current spots in Boston, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” DiFillippo says of his hectic schedule. “Lynnfield was supposed to open a couple of years ago, but because of the economy, it got messed up. And New York was supposed to open up earlier this year, then the building got delayed. But because of that, we’ve had a lot more time to train all these people, so it actually worked out to be good.” Davio’s Cucina is part of the Showcase SuperLux complex at The Street, a shopping and entertainment center with an upscale movie theater.
Q. What kind of a crowd do you expect in Chestnut Hill?
A. One-hundred-thousand cars go by this place each day. It’s free parking, there’s also valet. That’s an advantage we have out here, we don’t have the Boston [parking]. The [Davio’s] in Foxborough at Patriot Place does huge business. It’s bigger than I ever thought it would be, so this is just another continuation. We’d never really done a suburb until Foxborough. It worked so well that I was like, “Geez, you know I think our concept is a good suburb restaurant.” I worried that we were too expensive or too high-end but people want this now, they don’t want to go into Boston. Years ago, people wouldn’t spend money out in the suburbs, they had to go into town to do it. When they were near their house, they just wouldn’t do it. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how it used to be. But now people will stay in their neighborhoods and go to really good restaurants. Think about it. Look at Newton Center, obviously Patriot Place, there’s a lot of great restaurants now out in the suburbs.
‘Years ago, people wouldn’t spend money out in the suburbs, they had to go into town to do it. . . . But now people will stay in their neighbor-hoods and go to really good restaurants.’
Q. Your other establishments are known as hubs for celebrities. Do you expect to bring boldfacers to this suburban location?
A. [Patriots owner] Robert Kraft lives a mile from here, I think [his son and president of the Kraft Group] Jonathan can walk here. No question they’ll come if they’re out this way. I think when a lot of [celebrities] are in Boston, the hotels are nearby so that’s one of the reasons they go to that location. We’re known to take care of the guests, we make sure they’re well taken care of, private room or whatever. I’ve already had some people call.
Q. Describe the space.
A. It’s 250 seats, we have a big bar, 28 seats, we have a big open kitchen where you can sit right at the chef’s table, watch the chefs cook. We have a pizza oven that we imported from Italy. This thing is just beautiful and you can sit right there watching the chefs making the pizza. And then we have nine booths around the bar. It’s very comfortable. We don’t have tablecloths here so it’s not like Davio’s. It’s not as formal. It’s a much more approachable Davio’s, more of an everyday Davio’s. We have beautiful mahogany tables, hardwood floors, the ceilings are 17 feet high so it’s just beautiful. It’s more of a modern Davio’s. I would say it’s not your dad’s Davio’s, because the lights here are more modern, the furniture’s more modern, it’s just a different look. But it still feels like a Davio’s, we have the pillars that we’re known for from Arlington Street and the other restaurants. It’s wide open and feels big.
Q. Bruce Springsteen and Tom Brady are raving fans of your spring rolls, so those must be on the menu. What else are you offering?
A. Of course we have our spring rolls. I didn’t want to do a full-blown Northern Italian steak house. You know, someone goes to a movie, I don’t think they’d want to have a big dinner. Even though we still have steak here, it’s still not a big steak house. It’s more like pizza, pasta; we have burgers on the menu, so it’s a little different. That was the idea, to do a cucina, more of a lighter Davio’s. The menu’s really diverse, it’s a little bit of everything.