How they do it: The duo behind Don Angie believe they’ve broken the mold of traditional Italian-American cuisine. “We strive to re-create classic Italian-American cuisine in a new and exciting way, while still using familiar flavors, resulting in dishes that are both comforting and satisfying. We try to create a relaxed, inviting atmosphere that’s as comfortable as a neighborhood restaurant but also continues to surprise its guests with our refreshing approach to this cuisine.”
Steal it: Work hard and create delicious, interesting food that’s infused with passion.
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Wonho Frank Lee
Established: April 2017
Owner: Janet Zuccarini
Chef: Evan Funke
How they do it: Success in found in three H’s at Felix—hyper-local, hyper-seasonal, and handmade. “Our glass-enclosed pasta lab, located in the center of our dining room, is a testament to the dedication and level of craftsmanship with which we approach our culinary philosophy,” says owner Janet Zuccarini. “To me, the term ‘New Italian’ is actually about a return to old world philosophies. It's about truly connecting with your food, whether that be through a new-found appreciation of farmers, sustainable food practices and systems or, of course, quality.”
Steal it: Tell a story, make it your own and make it compelling.
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Established: November 2015
Owners: Meg Sahs and Sarah Grueneberg
Chef: Sarah Grueneberg
Pastry chef: Sara Lamb
How they do it: “We like to say we have a traditional heart with a modern hand,” says chef/owner Sarah Grueneberg. “We’re inspired by the people, culture and traditions of Italy while also incorporating other techniques and ingredients you may find outside of Italy. We focus on our ingredients and extracting the optimal flavor for a dish, whether its cooking or braising or simply dressing it with olive oil and putting on the grill.”
Steal it: Don’t just follow a trend—make sure you have a connection to it. Make sure it’s something special you believe it and want to have some fun with.
The Red Hen
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The Red Hen
Owner: Mike Friedman and Mike O’Malley
Chef: Mike Friedman
Chef de Cuisine: Krystal Cripe
Pastry Chef: Marina McFarland
How they do it: It’s the business strategy behind the food at The Red Hen that’s driving success, says co-owner Mike Friedman. “We feel that being an independent restaurant is acknowledging that you have to be a good business person. The restaurant business is just that: a business. To survive, you must have a strong command of money, labor and product. You need to listen to your consumers and make sure you're pleasing them. At Red Hen, we strive to be consistently great across the board.”
Steal it: Listen to your employees, then listen to your guests. If your employees are engaged and you are driving a positive culture, that will transfer to the guest.
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Established: April 1984
Owner: Levy Restaurants
Chef: Chef/Partner Tony Mantuano, Executive Chef Joe Flamm
Pastry chef: Joey Schwab
How they do it: Modern, luxurious, and authentic were the intentions behind Spiaggia—not your Nonna’s cooking. “We traveled to Italy, worked in the finest restaurants like Dal Pescatore that helped us create Spiaggia,” says chef/partner Tony Mantuano. “Spiaggia was created to be more high-fashion, like the restaurants we saw in Milan or Verona. This style of Italian restaurant was very rare in America. One of the most important elements was directly importing that style, those flavors, that feeling of hospitality to Chicago. Hospitality is crucial, guests must feel like we are so happy to see them.”
Steal it: You exist because of your guests; it’s all about them. “Make them feel like you truly appreciate their visit. Make a memory, it lasts longer than anything else you will serve them.”
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Chef/Owner: Nick Stefanelli
Pastry chef: Jemil Gadea
How they do it: When Nick Stefanelli opened Masseria, much of his inspiration came from his travels to Puglia. “I wanted this concept to mimic the masseria—agricultural estates whose residents worked the land, created their food and hosted visitors regularly. We strive to give our guests a unique dining experience that combines classic Italian technique with modern flavors and interpretations.”
Steal it: Follow your instincts.
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New York City
Established: 1915, reopened by current owners in 2015
Owners: Linden Pride and Naren Young
Chef: Rachel Polhill
How they do it: Under Rachael Polhill, Dante serves light and fresh Australian-Italian cuisine. It’s informed by the cultural melting pot of Australia—avocado toast with goat cheese, arugula and basil; baked eggs with Tuscan kale, pomodoro, dukkah and goat feta. Owner Linden Pride says Dante takes Italian cuisine back to what makes it special, “seasonally focused, ingredient-driven cuisine… Fresh, healthy, delicious food served family-style, in a modern setting.”
Steal it: Combine Italian vernacular with true local flavors and ingredients
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Owners: Umberto Gibin and Staffan Terje
Chef: Staffan Terje
How they do it: Owners Umberto Gibin and Staffan Terje focus on Piemontese cuisine at Perbacco, but some things stray outside tradition. “For example, many new restaurants are using double zero flour, but Staffan believes it is too fine and that the rougher flour gives more texture and is better suited to their pastas,” Gibin says.
Steal it: Make it an experience guests cannot get at home—from food, to wine, to service.
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Owner: Submarine Hospitality (Joshua McFadden and Luke Dirks)
Chef: Joshua McFadden
Pastry chef: Nora Antene
How they do it: Walking the fine line of New Italian well, Ava Gene’s adheres to the Italian philosophies of sourcing, seasonality and the table, but also creates its own traditions. “Honoring and understanding tradition, while pushing the concept forward by creating dishes and an experience—that excites guests today,” says chef/owner Joshua McFadden. “Hospitality is in the details, from the warm greeting received at the front door, to the scent of the soap in the restrooms to the knowledge and attention of your server.”
Steal it: Understand tradition to create something new.
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Owners: Marco Maestoso and Dalila Ercolani
Chef: Marco Maestoso
How they do it: Guests at Maestoso get a lot of interaction with the chefs, says owner Dalila Ercolani. They can sit at the chef’s counter to make the most of the experience. “We strive to bring a whole new dining experience to San Diego and to each and every one of our guests,” Ercolani says. “It’s modern Italian food like you've never seen it before.”
Steal it: Buy top quality ingredients and give them an experience that is as close as possible to Italy itself.