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In Dining

Chef David Magnasco's passion for Italian culture and cuisine is evident in his cooking.

What chefs eat: David Magnasco of The Chef's Table

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.

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 well-prepared seafood. 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."

Fresh spring rolls from Thai Lotus

"I love fresh spring rolls, period. There's shrimp, meat and egg, along with the rice noodles and lettuce. They're super simple, but they're so fresh and delicious. Sometimes I'll also get them at the Public Market with my daughter, Maddalena. That, with some Chardonnay for lunch, it's perfect."

Fresh seafood at St. Paul Fish

"You can't beat the collaboration at the Milwaukee Public Market. Not only do I buy so much fresh seafood there, but I stop by at least once a week for oysters. Often I'll get oysters and then take a seat at the wine bar at Thief Wine. There are usually five to seven options from the East or West Coast. I love Raspberry Point oysters, so anytime I can get those, I do. I also order them for the restaurant. Oysters and Sauvignon Blanc; it's a pairing made in heaven."

Ultimate comfort food

"I never go out for Italian food because I love to make it myself. Among the dishes that I enjoy making is risotto. I used to make it with my grandma, and that's how I first started cooking, really. Now I make it with my daughter. She's 7, and she's really starting to cook a lot more with me. We'll wheel over her "princess chair" and she'll stir the risotto and add the stock. And then I'll ask her 'Maddelena, what does this need?'... and she'll say 'Salt!' Last night it was a Chardonnay risotto with arborio rice and like seven different white cheeses. Just awesome."


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