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When Chef Scott Harris opened the doors to Mia Francesca on North Clark Street in 1992, he created a trend in the Chicago restaurant scene that has become a benchmark for urban dining. Mia Francesca, touted an immediate success by the press and patrons alike, was one of the first restaurants to encourage the lively art of dining with a contemporary, casually sophisticated trattoria ambiance. Featuring simple, rustic cooking, friendly service and fair prices, Mia Francesca won accolades from Chicago Magazine as “Critics’ Choice – Rookie of the Year.”
For Harris, Mia Francesca represented both a start and a finish. A veteran of many well-known Chicago restaurant kitchens including; The 95th, Ambria, Cucina Cucina, Harry’s Café, Sole Mio, and Petthany’s in St. Croix, Mia Francesca was the culmination of his years of experience and the desire to provide Chicagoans with a new style of dining. To open Mia Francesca, Harris partnered with Michael Noone and Terry Alexander, restaurant entrepreneurs in their own right, whose subsequent successes include Streetside, Mod, and Sonotheque.
“Mia Francesca was a departure from what was happening in the Chicago dining scene. We were purposely informal, but we didn’t compromise the quality of the food. We took away the pretentiousness of the restaurant scene and offered an exciting dining experience at a good price,” Harris says.
Harris has expanded his vision to include additional restaurants throughout the Chicagoland area, each time partnering with astute restaurant professionals and often including each chef as a partner. This managerial philosophy of building working partnerships, not just obtaining financial backers, has had a direct influence on the success of his restaurants. “We have really created a Family of Restaurants. Everyone has a vested interest in the restaurant’s success,” Harris notes.
Coming from a family of restaurateurs, Daniel Harris, the executive chef of Davanti Enoteca’s River North location, began his culinary career at a young age. At seven, Harris remembers lending a hand at a Thanksgiving charity luncheon that his family helped organize. “It was the most gratifying feeling to see everyone in the dining room smiling,” says Harris. “That feeling has been my driving motivation since day one. As long as the guests are happy, I couldn’t be happier.”
A Chicago native, Harris attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. After graduating, Harris ventured to New York where he worked at Esca, a Southern Italian trattoria from James Beard award-winning Chef Dave Pasternack. Harris parlayed his experience into stints at a number of award-winning restaurants in New York, where he worked alongside acclaimed chefs sucha as Mario Batali, Justin Hilbert and Brian Kingsford. Arriving back in Chicago in 2013, Harris joined the team at Davanti Enoteca, working at the Western Springs outpost before opening the River North location later that year.
At Davanti Enoteca, the rustic fare found in small towns and fishing villages across Italy inspire Harris and his team. “We share the same mindset as Italian chefs and make a tremendous effort to source the highest quality ingredients that we can,” says Harris. “Strong leadership, dedicated employees and a genuine passion for quality food has been the backbone of the success of Davanti Enoteca.”When he’s not trying to catch up on the latest football game, Harris enjoys reading cookbooks and traveling for culinary inspiration.
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