I was born in Trento, and then raised in Florence as an “army brat” through my teens since my father was stationed in the army in Florence at that time. After attending cooking school and working in restaurants and hotels in Italy, France and Switzerland I moved to the USA in 1968 with the dream of opening my own restaurant someday. I worked at two restaurants in New York City: one Italian and one New York Steakhouse. That dream became a reality on May 1, 1975 when I opened Da Silvano. I have been the owner, executive chef and hands-on all-the-time operator of the restaurant since that day. I have lived in Greenwich Village since the late ’60s, and while I have a home just outside Florence, I am not sure I could ever say goodbye to New York, after all it has given me over the last 40+ years of my life.
Work: I spend most of my time at Da Silvano, where I oversee the kitchen as well as the front of house – everything from the daily specials to the staffing and then some! When I’m not working I enjoy traveling as much as I can, to places in the Caribbean, Italy, the UK, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Croatia, Venezuela, Japan and Thailand . I am a “car freak” and love fast cars – especially Ferraris. My wife and I have taken several trips to Formula 1 races in the US and Europe, and have been to the Ferrari factory in Modena several times as well. Whenever I travel I take note of new food ideas as well as ideas for the décor and ambiance at Da Silvano, from lighting to flowers to the servers’ uniforms – I am ALWAYS thinking about the restaurant. Even in my sleep… I enjoy eating out and trying new things, although I do find that a lot of the times the food at some of the newer “hip” restaurants is not all it is hyped to be!
After attending university at the Aurelio Saffi Technical Institute to study cooking, and then working in Switzerland and France, I returned to Italy to serve in the army. At that time I had already been dreaming of moving to the United States and making something more of myself. So I saved up some money and decided to take a trip to New York to see what it was like. I tried many restaurants in the first five days (and ran out of money) and one was worst than the next, so I started to work. I decided pretty quickly that if those restaurants could make it, then I should be able to make it, too. I worked in several restaurants in Manhattan while saving up money and waiting to find the right spot to open my own restaurant.
After living in New York City since 1968, I have so many memories, both good and bad! But one of the most important ones is the birth of my daughter Leyla at New York Hospital just before Christmas in 1979, five years after I had opened Da Silvano. I went back and forth from the restaurant several times in my CJ7 Jeep, and finally when she was born we cracked open a bottle of Dom Perignon to celebrate! I think she still has the cork from that bottle…
Da Silvano (on 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village) is my life so this photo of me on our sidewalk cafe in front of the entrance to the restaurant was most appropriate location for a photo for ITALIANY, being that I am an Italian who has been living and working in NY for most of my life! Working in hospitality as a restaurateur and host, I think its important always to look your best for your guests, and represent your personality. My style is colorful and eclectic. I like to mix up patterns, layers and color. I don’t always wear a jacket when I am working but I do like to dress it up once in a while (in a suit), or mix a jacket with more casual pants and shoes, my shoes have to be comfortable AND stylish, since I am always on my feet working the room and checking on the kitchen.
I think it is an excellent idea. It is a great project and a great way to highlight the many creative and talented Italians who have made their lives in New York.
I think that since I first arrived in the USA from Italy, I have helped to introduce New York City to many things from Italian culture…from new ways of cooking (Tuscan cuisine and ingredients instead of casual Italian style cooking), Italian style, in many of the clothes, shoes and accessories (scarves, jewelry) that I wear, music (by playing a lot of Italian musicians at Da Silvano over the years like, Jovanotti, Battisti, Eros Ramazzotti, Zucchero, Mango, Vasco Rossi, Renato Zero, Mina, Elisa, Battiato, Cocciante and MC2 (Radio Montecarlo due ZWEI). Da Silvano has been in the heart of Greenwich Village since 1975, I think it and I have been able to share many Italian cultural elements with our customers, neighbors, and friends!