There’s no shortage of articles and television shows that showcase the dishes that chefs love to cook at their restaurants. But, what do they love to eat at the end of their exhausting 16-hour days? Or on their days off?
In this series, we ask Milwaukee-area chefs to share their favorite dishes, both from local restaurants and for eating at home. In this edition, we talked with Chef David Magnasco of The Chef’s Table. Magnasco will be among eight featured chefs at the fourth annual Moveable Feast event at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
Chef David Magnasco spends his days designing menus for private dinners and events at The Chef’s Table. But before he opened his swanky Walker’s Point private dining room, he honed his craft at a variety of fine dining establishments in the U.S. and abroad.
Among his formative experiences was time spent in Northern Italy, where he completed the master’s program at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in Costigliole d’Asti. It was a decision born of his love for the ingredients used in Piedmontese cooking. And his love for Italian culture and cuisine is evident in his approach to food and wine.
Magnasco says that, when he dines out, he often seeks out high quality, well prepared food. And that’s reflected in some of his favorite dishes from around town.
"Everything" at The National
"I’m not a breakfast person. But The National is my favorite place for lunch. I love sitting right in the corner window. You get to see everything that’s happening on 9th and National. And there’s the great little courtyard in the back during the summer. And you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Nell [Benton] has a great palate, and she just sources her ingredients really well. I mix it up quite a bit. I think I’ve had all the sandwiches, and I love the specials."
The ham & biscuits at Morel
"I really love everything that Chef Jonathan Manyo makes; he changes the menu all the time so I really never eat the same thing twice … although, he makes this amazing little sticky biscuit with ham and honey. It’s so simple, but so good. We almost always sit at the bar. Joe is one of the best bartenders in the city; he makes a great cocktail. And every now and again, if I’m lucky, I’ll pop over later at night after work and I’ll get a taste of their family meal. They take turns cooking, and they’re always so excited to share what they’ve made."
The tartare at Bavette La Boucherie
"I almost always order like four things when I go there. It varies, but I always order the tartare. Karen Bell is fabulous; she takes a lot of risks with her flavor profiles, but she does it really really well. I don’t think there’s anything on that menu that you can go wrong with. They also have a lot of great things in their case. I’ve even gone over and purchased things there to use at the Chefs Table for events; once we used a goat sausage that she brings in. It was so good. It’s also so fun to sit at the counter there and watch them work, cutting up meats and prepping. I love it."
Special occasion dish
"Every Christmas morning, it’s tradition for us to open a bottle of champagne and I’ll make French toast with pannetone from Glorioso’s. We’ll usually sneak down to the Chef’s Table kitchen and cook so that we don’t mess up our kitchen. My daughter Maddalena will crack the eggs and whip them together with the cinnamon and ingredients. And she’s even getting to the point where she’s learning to flip the French Toast on the griddle. The finished product is really decadent. We gild the lily with powdered sugar and Purple Door vanilla ice cream."
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.