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Chef's Corner: DOUG D’AVICO, Executive Chef - Bistro One West

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DOUG D’AVICO, Executive Chef of the new sweetheart restaurant in St. Charles, IL adds to the all-star talent behind Bistro One West, a fresh American restaurant. With more than two decades of experience in the culinary world, D’Avico first met Bistro One West owner, George Guggeis, while working at Trattoria No. 10, a popular theatre-district Italian restaurant helmed by D’Avico for nearly a decade. (free registration required)

Despite D’Avico’s extensive Italian background, he’s pushing the envelope with a variety of regional specialties, combining his Italian flair with Midwestern tastes.

“My cooking philosophy is simplicity and quality,” says D’Avico, who uses high quality ingredients and locally sourced products at Bistro One West. “I let the products speak for themselves, and let the ingredients say what they need to say.”

Doug really enjoys Italian food. Growing up just outside Philadelphia, there was always a pasta shop or deli that gave off wonderful smells and tastes. When he was young there was a pasta shop that was one block from his house that made a variety of pastas—known for their ravioli and gnocchi. Doug’s family had pasta for dinner a couple of times a week, sending him to the corner to get gnocchi or ravioli. Doug liked watching people make the pasta, learning how to make his own.

“It’s not hard to make but once you learn the feel and practice the technique of making the doughs, it comes to be more natural and comfortable with time. It is just a lot of fun to try different pasta flavors and different potatoes for gnocchi,” says Doug.

“I have to tell you, when the spring comes around I really like to do gnocchi with some of the new crops that are just popping up like the fresh herbs, asparagus, small morel mushrooms and zucchini blossom—even roasted Brussels sprouts and bacon seem to taste better this time of year. Gnocchi are a great vehicle for serving with fresh produce, homemade ricotta or even just some butter and Parmesan cheese,” says Doug.

Over the years Doug has made some different types of gnocchi using sweet potatoes, purple potatoes and even ones made with ricotta cheese.

“Every now and then there is one of the recipes that I really like that is just sort of simple, but really makes you take a second look at the recipe,” says Doug.

Here is one of Doug’s favorite gnocchi recipes that is different and fun to eat.D’Avico first earned his culinary stripes at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. While honing his training skills, D’Avico worked for a number of restaurants in the New York area before moving to Miami, FL to work at the Pavilion Grill at Hotel Intercontinental. D’Avico then moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where he worked at Bagwell’s 2424 at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki.

Eventually, D’Avico moved from the warm weather to Chicago where he first began as sous chef at Trattoria No. 10 in 1988 where he was quickly promoted to executive chef. D’Avico earned a three-star rating from dining critic Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune. He left after a few years to pursue other opportunities—including Empress River Casino in Joliet, Ill. and Arlington International Race Course in Arlington Heights, Ill.—before returning to Trattoria No. 10 where he took the restaurant in a new direction.


Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Cinnamon and Orange Zest

3 lbs - Light fleshed sweet potatoes
1/8 cup - Good quality ricotta, drained
1/8 cup - Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 ea - Large egg
½ tsp - Kosher salt
¼ tsp - Freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp - Nutmeg
3-4 cups - Unbleached all purpose flour
1 ea - Orange
1 ea - Medium size leek, white part only
2 TBL - Cinnamon-sugar mixture
3 TBL - European-style butter
2-3 TBL - Academia Barilla Riviera Ligure olive oil
Some fresh herbs for plate garnishing

  1. Wash and bake the sweet potatoes at 375 degrees until soft to the touch, let cool. Remove skin and put the flesh through a potato ricer to break up large clumps.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the flour—combine well with hands. Fold 2 cups flour into the sweet potato mix ½ cup at a time.
    Check dough - it should be a little sticky. If it is too wet, add ¼ cup more flour and mix. Wrap and let rest in the frig for 15 minutes.
  3. Use the remaining flour to dust work space and place the dough on the surface, sprinkling a little more flour on top. Knead and flatten the dough about ¾ inch and cut strips ever ¾ of an inch. Roll each strip to round the corners. Use more flour is dough sticks and a damp towel to cover the dough strips while working. Use a small knife to cut strips into ¾ inch pieces taking the back of a fork or a gnocchi board to roll the gnocchi off (or use finger to poke an indentation). Store the gnocchi on a corn meal coated tray and either freeze or cook and serve.
  4. To serve bring a large pan of salted water to a boil—in the meantime remove the root end of the leek and cut on a bias about ¼ inch thick, separate layers and wash. Zest one orange and set aside.
  5. Pre-heat 12 inch sauté pan—when hot add ½ of the butter and washed leeks (do no let butter burn). Cook for 3-5 minutes until leeks are tender, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  6. Add gnocchi to boiling water and stir well for about 5-8 minutes. Drain and add to the sauté pan with the remaining butter, cook for about 3 minutes then add cooked leeks and cook for 2-4 more minutes, season to taste. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, add orange zest and mix well. Pour into serving bowl and garnish with fresh herbs and drizzle Academia Barilla olive oil.
  7. Serve with Pecorino Romano on the side. YUM
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