Spaghettini is one of those places I've always driven by on the freeway, but never got around to visiting. Best known for a long-standing Sunday jazz brunch, they've collaborated with musician Dave Koz and Chef Scott Howard to launch a sister space in Beverly Hills in the not-so-distant future. However, my interest remains locally, and Victor Avila clues me in on what makes their kitchen run so smoothly.
Let's go over all the different responsibilities you held at Spaghettini. I started as a dishwasher at 16, then worked as a prep cook, line cook, lead grill man, sous chef and eventually executive chef.
Why do you think so many managers, servers and kitchen staff remain with Spaghettini for so many years? Spaghettini has always had an atmosphere of fun and family. The owners are very supportive, and we make it a priority to make every employee feel welcome.
Best culinary tip for the home cook: Stay focused on what you're doing.
What is your beverage of choice? I am strictly a water guy.
Where was your most recent meal? SeaLegs in Huntington Beach. I had flat iron steak, Brussels sprouts and ceviche.
One food you can't live without: Pizza. My favorite is a Margherita. We make ours from scratch using house mozzarella.
Explain the difference between Northern and Southern Italian cuisine. Northern Italian cuisine is more cream sauces and grilled meats. Southern Italian is more tomato sauce, olive oil and fresh fish.
Tell us about the Sunday brunch. We have had an extremely successful brunch for almost 15 years. There is no other brunch like it for three main reasons: We do a live remote broadcast from 94.7 The Wave radio station. We have incredible live music playing. And we offer both an unlimited buffet AND a freshly made-to-order entree choice.
You're making breakfast; what are you having? Oatmeal and bananas.
What do you suggest for first-timers? Our most popular dish, the Parmesan-crusted Chilean sea bass. Also, the cider-brined pork chop and the ahi tower.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best: There are many great restaurants in Orange County, but I don't believe there is one specific area of concentration that is better than the others.
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Favorite places to eat. Bestia, Javier's, Red O.
Give us an example of going outside of your comfort zone in the kitchen. I switched from using pre-made stocks and bases to doing everything from scratch. It was a big change, but well worth it.
Strangest customer request (and did you do it?): In the middle of a busy night, they wanted me to put together a huge family-style feast of steak, lobster, lamb and chicken. Of course I did it (smiles).