John DeLoach, the executive chef of Lavo, has been working in kitchens almost non stop since he was a kid in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. He would come home from school and spend the afternoon curiously watching his Sicilian grandmother make pasta and pizza dough to pair with the fresh fish his grandfather would bring home from the Fulton Fish market where he worked. “I always asked her what she was doing…It fascinated me” DeLoach says of his memories as a kid peering over the countertop as the family matriarch prepared dinner, “that was how I got this desire to learn about food and to cook.” DeLoach’s grandmother had a garden including apple trees (yes in Brooklyn!), “so during the summer we would always eat vegetables out of the garden and pasta and seafood that my grandfather brought home” DeLoach says.
DeLoach went from selling knishes and cold soda on the beach in Coney Island to working as a cook’s helper in an Italian catering hall as a teenager. There, he learned how to make pasta on a commercial scale and about the type of “wise-guys” that were in the restaurant business, “you could pretty much do as you pleased” he says. For instance, his first boss once slapped a customer because he was misbehaving with the staff, “my boss pushed him against the wall and slapped him in the face. He said you can’t conduct yourself like this, this is my place, these are my people, straightened out the guys tuxedo and said now go outside and have a good time.” This sort of no holds barred attitude was common in the restaurant business then according to DeLoach.
With the price of culinary school out of reach, DeLoach joined the Navy after high school and cooked throughout his four years in the service. While DeLoach remembers a lot of skipping school to cook for this friends as a kid, he credits the Navy with instilling a sense of discipline in him that he brought to the kitchen later in life. After his time in the service, a friend of DeLoach got him a job in a French restaurant. This two year apprenticeship confirmed DeLoach’s desire to cook professionally. He learned everything from knife skills to butchering as he worked his way up to being a chef there.
DeLoach is a second generation Italian New Yorker so it only came naturally that the concept behind the original Lavo in Las Vegas was New York City style Italian food. “For me it’s very old style, old school, New York City Italian food” he says. Growing up celebrating holidays with up to 30 people around the table and a driveway resembling the Godfather, overflowing with cadillacs, DeLoach’s favorite food is that which can be shared with friends and family. “I’ve always associated food and cooking with socializing and good family times” he says. DeLoach was the executive chef at Lavo in Las Vegas and helped to open up Lavo New York in 2010 with the same menu. Between 40% and 60% of the menu is fish and protein based dishes. “All the seafood dishes sell well” DeLoach says, with some of the most popular dishes at Lavo including the “Chopped” salad with lobster and shrimp and the tuna tartare.
Brunch is really where Lavo stands out though. “We turn the place into a nightclub….Brunch is out of
control” he says. DeLoach designed the brunch menu with unusual and exciting dishes that could be quickly prepared for the fast paced brunch turn around. With 30 chefs working under DeLoach throughout the day, consistency is key he says, “you want to know that if you go to a restaurant on a sunday when the chef is off that you’re going to get the same dish you would get on a wednesday when the chef is there.” So whether you go in to Lavo on a saturday morning or on a monday night, you’re sure to enjoy the same delicious dishes, perfect for sharing with a group of friends. Make sure to try DeLoach’s personal favorite, the chicken marsala!