Louis DiBiccari was freshly returned from an inspirational trip to Chicago when he spoke with Eater about the first year of Storyville, the Back Bay venue that is part club, part restaurant, where he has been cooking since the opening last September. DiBiccari, a former chef de cuisine at Sel de la Terre, runs minibar as well: both venues are at the Copley Square Hotel. He's also the brains behind the interactive dinner series Chef Louie Night. Dibiccari asked to meet in Parkman Plaza on the Boston Common, surrounded by three statues representing Religion, Industry, and Learning. Why? His uncle, the sculptor Adio DiBiccari, created them, and that legacy plays a significant role in the chef's next move.
How did you first get involved in Storyville? I've known Brian Lesser [the owner] for over a decade. He hired me ten years ago for my first sous chef position at a restaurant called Metro, which used to be in Porter Square. I thought it would be a good thing to go in and just help him out for a little while. I didn't know that I'd be staying on so long, but at no point did I ever think, god, I can't wait to get out of here. It was like, wow, this is pretty good. I can do some pretty fun food and I don't have to be here 90 hours a week.
What was the highlight of the year? I would say the biggest thing that happened while I was at Storyville was probably getting reviewed. I'd never been reviewed before. I had never had a chance to pick up the Globe and read what Devra [First] or any other critic had to say about what I was doing on a professional level. That was something I was looking forward to. I give a lot of relevance to what I read by people I respect. I think it helps you to determine how are you going to run your business. Not necessarily the way you're going to cook, but it tells you a little about, okay, maybe the noise level in the room is too loud. Maybe the lighting is too bright. Maybe we are carrying a pretty heavy hand with the salt, maybe there's things we really need to take a look at here. I think it's vital, and to have that happen there was great. I look back at it and I take those comments and that critique to the next project that I do.
What's the must-order dish? I think the waitstaff really pushes things like the chickpea frites on people. I think that's a favorite item, and they also love crab rangoons. I notice that whatever they order for their family meal is what they also tend to sell to tables. Which is great. It's fun that they have things that they're really excited about on the menu.
Does it feel like it's been a whole year? No, not at all. Not even a little bit.
Any major changes over the year? There haven't been huge changes. But I'll tell you, that place is light years away from what it was before [Saint]. Light years. It's remarkable how they had a vision to open up a certain style of club and certain style of nightlife, and that they wanted a young professional crowd, that they wanted a clean crowd, that they wanted people who were into Boston nightlife in a way that was well behaved, and they said "we're not going to charge you cover, and we're going to have relevant food and cocktail, and we're going to be really careful about how we grow this business." And what I've seen are some really fun crowds in there. I get texts almost every night from people that I know and have been going out with in the restaurant business for years, being like "hey, can you get us in, we're in line." I don't think these people would have come here before it was Storyville, and they're coming here now.
So the future. You mentioned that you'll be moving on. Can you share any details? I keep saying the same thing - we're looking at opening between this Christmas and the following Thanksgiving. (laughs) We're in a great neighborhood. I think Fort Point is the right neighborhood for what we want to do. It's the artists' community, and like I said, [pats "Religion"] we got our roots, so it's relevant. My brother's coming with me, he's my partner, so that's really exciting. He's been in what is probably the measuring stick for hospitality in this city for the last two years, managing at Eastern Standard. The city really supports us in a lot of ways, so we're pretty excited about it. It's going to be awesome.
Are you still thinking 'Tavern Road' for the name? Yeah, we're going to do it. That's where his studio was [gestures to the statue].
Any thoughts on concept or menu? I can tell you that I've been eating at places like Fore Street, Girl and the Goat, The Purple Pig, The Breslin, The Spotted Pig, so that kind of paints a little bit of a picture for you.
What's going on with Chef Louie Night? The one thing we've always been missing is the best part. The chaos that happens during the day is the most fun part. It's the part that everyone wants to see but couldn't. And with things like YouTube and Facebook and Twitter, we're sort of able to deliver that experience to people, and now I've got a larger production crew for doing YouTube videos than I do a kitchen team. We're getting to a point where we'll be able to pump out three, four, five videos during the course of a day so that people can tune in and see what's happening at the event they're going to that night.
What will happen at Storyville after you gone? We got really lucky. This kid Jimmy Whelan, who was the chef there for a little bit, came back. He was like "I'd like to get back involved in what's going on here." At some point, he'll probably take over. Jimmy's amongst the most talented cooks I've ever worked with in this city. The kid can really knock it out of the park. Really talented, great base of flavors, great range of flavors, great attitude, great skills. Really fast, too.