2010 Rising Star Chef: Chris Bonfili of Avenue B
“People think a style of cooking is something you can pinpoint, but I’ve been cooking professionally for 16 years, and every day of my experience goes into it,” Bonfili says.
Rising Star Chef
At Avenue B, chef and owner Chris Bonfili has found every ingredient for inspirational cooking since opening this new bistro with wife, Jenn, last November. First among these, he says, is the creative freedom to change his menu every day. Then there’s his renewed energy for cooking: 18 months away from a professional kitchen (he formerly was the longtime chef at the now-defunct Red Room) left Chris hungry to get into a place of his own and create something special.
The Pittsburgh native’s background includes a stint at culinary school and time in kitchens from Colorado to Maryland—in restaurants that ranged from mom-and-pop and brew pub to Asian to contemporary American. All this experience goes into his cooking, which falls under the header “American” but finds influences around the globe. “People think a style of cooking is something you can pinpoint, but I’ve been cooking professionally for 16 years, and every day of my experience goes into it,” he says.
Large wall-mounted chalkboards, which account for about 60 percent of the menu, showcase new dishes each day, giving Bonfili the chance to shop in the morning and use ingredients in dishes that same night. Successful starters range from a deconstructed spring roll topped with pulled pork to grilled-fennel soup with crab; mains might be perfectly done pork chops, pan-seared day-boat scallops, sweet-potato enchiladas or grilled shrimp and grits.
Desserts have an American spin, from chewy butterscotch blondies to creative flavors of house-made ice cream.
With reasonable menu pricing and $5 corkage, Bonfili is making good on the vision he shared with Jenn in opening the restaurant (she manages and works the front of the house after previous stints at Red Room and Six Penn Kitchen): It’s a place where they, a hard-working couple with two young kids, could afford to eat out a couple of nights a week. As we all know, every neighborhood in town could use a restaurant exactly like that.
Avenue B: 5501 Centre Ave., Shadyside; 412/683-3663, avenueb-pgh.com.