For Philadelphia native John DaSilva, cooking has been a lifelong family affair. He started working in his family’s pizzeria in North Philly at 13, then moved on to their Italian restaurant in Manayunk, where he learned how to cure meats and make fresh pasta from his sister and brother-in-law. Now, more than three decades later, DaSilva leads the culinary program at Brick & Brew gastropub, working as executive chef at the restaurant’s Havertown, Malvern and Media locations.
MLT: Where do you get your recipe inspiration?
JD: My head chefs and sous chefs will give me a dish, and I’ll say, “Let’s take it to the next level.” We’ll talk about it and come together to try to make it the best possible thing we can do. We’re not afraid to do anything.
MLT: Who most influenced your cooking?
JD: My family—my mom’s a great cook. The Italian side of my family love to eat. They have feasts for Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, and you have a table of 45 to 50 people. There’s so much food.
MLT: What is your cooking style?
JD: Right now, it’s a little bit of a free-for-all. I kind of just do whatever is possible, culinary wise. If you would’ve asked me 10 to 15 years ago, I’d probably say more Italian, but I’m not about that anymore. I’ve ventured into comfort [food]. I think that’s what it’s all about—just comfort.
MLT: What’s a must-order at Brick & Brew?
JD: The octopus. My cooking technique for it is a little different. I add a little citrus to the water, as well as [wine] corks, which tenderize the octopus. I’ve gotten compliments on that dish from people who’ve traveled throughout the world. They say it’s the best octopus they’ve ever had.