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Davio's at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Mass.

Operational organization is essential at this Northern Italian steakhouse, which features an entertaining display kitchen that is supported by back-of-the-house production and bakery facilities. An open, full-service, elliptical-shaped bar also contributes to the elegant, upscale ambience.


When Davio's opened its Patriot Place location in Foxborough, Mass., in late July, owner Steve DiFillippo had good reason to expect substantial traffic during the restaurant's early life. The original Davio's, opened in Boston in the 1980s and relocated to the Back Bay area in 2002, is highly rated for its high-end food and service, and is one of the busiest restaurants in the city. Many of Davio's Boston customers are commuters who live near Patriot Place, which sits adjacent to Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots football team. The development will eventually feature more than 1.3 million square feet of shopping, live and interactive entertainment, a four-star hotel, theater, and a museum with interactive exhibits and Patriots memorabilia.

During its first few months in operation, traffic at the Foxborough restaurant more than exceeded DiFillippo's expectations. “We've been packed since the day we opened in the summer,” DiFillippo says. “We took most everything from the Boston concept out to Foxborough. I felt that if we cut out something, that might be just the something that makes this concept so successful.”

With a few exceptions, the similarities extend to the layout and design of the bar, dining room and display kitchen, as well as the Northern Italian steakhouse menu. Even the trademark columns at Boston's Back Bay Davio's are part of the new restaurant. “We made fiberglass molds of the original columns so they look like plaster,” says the project's interior and concept designer, Steve Todisco, owner of Design Resources. “Unlike the original columns, which hold up a building in Boston, these hold up a flat roof.” Cornice moldings and hardwood floors also give the new space its “old” ambience. Collaborating with Design Resources, which focused on the interior design, Boston Showcase Company designed the kitchen and bar area. Gary Strickland, BSC’s vice president of operations, and BSC’s co-owner, Jack Starr, worked with Davio’s owners to create an equipment layout similar to that in the Boston location.

“A steakhouse has to be big, loud and fun. That's what we've become,” DiFillippo says.

When guests enter the restaurant, the two-sided bar draws attention to its distinct elliptical shape. Mahogany wood paneling encompasses the bar, which is lowered so the top comes to seven feet below the 17-foot-high ceilings. “The idea for the shape came to me while I was sitting on Carlsbad Beach in San Diego with my sketch book,” Todisco says. “I love boating and this is certainly a subliminal design of a boat. Also, I didn't want the bar to be against the wall, so I played around with interactive shapes. It's nice to look across the bar and see other people.”

The bar's position within the space is also important in the restaurant's design. “The bar is near the entrance, but isn't in the guests' faces when they walk in,” Todisco says. “The bar's canopy is like a vista that points you through the dining room to the kitchen.” Couches and booths provide a homey touch to the comfortable area.

Because the bar “floats,” wiring and plumbing for the sprinkler system are encased in a vertical chase inside a column in this area.

The bustling dining room seats 230, while the private dining rooms seat 120. The soaring ceilings provide an elegant, spacious feeling to the environment and also control noise. Tall banquettes backed with vinyl suede-like fabric also provide acoustical control.

A version of a chef's table, consisting of 10 seats, lines the counter of the 250-square-foot display kitchen, which provides entertainment as chefs move about to produce meals for up to 500 covers over the course of a busy day. “We had to design the kitchen with enough space to allow staff to produce large quantities of from-scratch-made food,” DiFillippo says. “But I am a businessman and know, also, that I had to have enough seating room. This kitchen is about 25 percent of the total 10,000-square-foot space vs. about 30 percent in many other restaurants.”

Quilted stainless steel and red-glowing heat lamps contribute to the display kitchen's ambience. “I prefer red lamps because they give a nice glow and shine off the quilted stainless steel,” Todisco says. “Also, customers can see the red glow from anywhere in the restaurant, so they always know where the food is coming from.”

“We need top-of-the-line equipment because of the volume we do and our quality standards,” adds Paul King, executive chef. “The equipment is the foundation of the operation, so we need to be able to rely on it day-in and day-out.”

This quality criteria applies to selections for the display and back-of-the-house kitchens. Both sections contain ample refrigeration so staff can have easy and quick access to ingredients. “We used as many refrigerated drawers as we could, because they add about 20 percent more capacity,” Stickland says.

Moving from left to right, chefs use a six-burner, heavy-duty range and pasta cooker to prepare dishes including angel hair pasta with fresh basil and Pomodoro sauce, fusilli and jumbo shrimp, fresh pea ravioli, Mac and cheese with white truffle oil, and fettuccine Carbonara. Staff sauté sides of asparagus, green beans and various appetizers coming fromthe hot fry station on the adjacent six-burner range. A cheesemelter that sits above the cookline adds an extra touch of heat to dishes as needed.

At the fry station, staff prepare onion rings, calamari, chicken livers and Philly cheese steak spring rolls.

The adjacent char grill sizzles continuously with all the meat dishes. Featured selections include everything from prime top sirloin and filet mignon to natural aged rib eye. “We're serving as many steaks as we are Italian entrées,” DiFillippo says.

The sauté station handles fish, including sea scallops, mussels, jumbo shrimp, swordfish, monkfish, salmon and crab cakes. Staff also use the sauté station for pork chops, chicken, short ribs and braised lamb shanks.

A convection oven heats potatoes and other dishes that can't be managed on the sauté station during peak periods. The oven also cooks pizza when the large deck oven that sits near the cold station is working overtime.

Staff prepare cold items for salads and appetizers to order in an open display area with guest seating. Cold rails hold ingredients and keep them fresh throughout a meal period.

“Everything in the kitchen is brand new, which is great,” says Brian Hennebury, chef de cuisine. “It's also a very efficient, well-laid-out space. All the stations are in our line of sight so we can maintain control from the expediter's station.” The expediter's station sits next to the grill.

In the back kitchen, a walk-in cooler, upright freezer and upright refrigerators hold ingredients until staff need them for production. One large upright refrigerated case exclusively stores white wine. Additional red wine sits in a refrigerated wine room out-front in view of guests.

A 30-gallon tilting skillet cooks large quantities of soups and occasionally blanches vegetables. A convection oven supports front-line production and banquet preparation of everything from appetizers and entrées to desserts. During non-peak hours, bakery staff can use the convection oven.

Bakers have their own work area with a four-burner range, large mixers and deck ovens for making desserts, including tiramisu and vanilla bean panna cotta with caramelized pineapples, as well as all the breads.

“In Foxborough, unlike Boston, a bakery assembly and finishing area with a countertop oven and small refrigerators sits near the display kitchen so staff do not have to track back and forth through the kitchen to pick up desserts,” says Strickland.

The back of the house also contains essentials such as pot and pan washing, dishwashing and ice machines.

“We believe simplicity is one of the factors that contributes to our success,” DiFillippo says. “This is important in everything from the menu to the décor to the equipment and a happy work environment.” As DiFillippo has learned, he and his design team shouldn't make many alternations to a good formula. Foxborough seems to support this philosophy.

Design Capsule

Davio's at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Mass., opened July 31, 2008. This high-end Northern Italian steakhouse is very similar to its sister restaurant, Davio's in Boston's Back Bay. The 10,000-square-foot restaurant features a full bar that seats 96. The bustling dining room seats 230 while the private dining rooms seat 120. Ten seats line a chef's counter that overlooks the display kitchen. The kitchen occupies 800-square-feet, including the front-of-house display kitchen and back-of-house production area and bakery; as well as 500-square-feet of storage space. The Foxborough establishment employs 100 staff members. The three Davio's and Avila, another concept owned by Steve DiFillippo, bring in $20 million in annual sales. Foxborough's guest count averages 350 per day. Average check is $75 per person. The restaurant is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., daily; for dinner, Sunday – Thursday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. A lounge menu is also available daily from 3 p.m. – midnight. Menu specialties include prime steaks, pork chops, fresh local seafood and Northern Italian dishes. Foxborough's equipment investment is $400,000.

Owner: Steve DiFillippo, headquartered in Boston

Vice President of Operations: Eleanor Arpino

Executive Chef: Paul King

Chef de Cuisine: Brian Hennebury

General Manager: Paul Flaherty

Assistant General Manager: Kate Cunningham

Architect: BKA Architects Inc., Brockton, Mass.; Kevin Golemme, senior associate

Interior and Concept Design: Design Resources, Lynnfield, Mass.; Steve Todisco, owner

Equipment Dealer & Designers: Boston Showcase Co., Newton, Mass., and Boston; Gary Strickland, vice president of engineering and chief designer; Jack Starr, vice president of sales; Walter Walsh, vice president of operations; Chris Arsenault, installation foreman