Interview with Chef Daniele Puleo of Dallas’ CiboDivino
Daniele Puleo has been in the restaurant business for more than thirty years. He grew up in Sicily, but he knew the US was where he wanted to make his culinary mark. So when he was twenty-two-years-old, he made his way to Scottsdale, AR, where he opened Tiramisu restaurant. After Scottsdale, it was Los Angeles where it wasn’t long before he was hosting Grammy, Oscar, and other celebrity events. He went onto work with Il Pastaio and Eurochow, before he landed in Dallas in 2014 and opened Daniele Osteria.
After six award-winning years, he founded Brix Pizza & Wine. Then he was ready for his ultimate culinary dream – CiboDivino Marketplace in Dallas, which he opened after selling both Osteria and Brix. Puleo partnered with his wife Christina to create “a modern Italian Market where you could find specialty food, memorable wines, and products that would make you want to come back again and again.” The wine is all selected by Puleo and most of the food is from his family recipes.
Puelo and Christina often return to Italy to see family and friends and to be inspired. But locals and visitors to Dallas don’t have to go all the way to Italy for inspiration, now they can just go to Cibo Divino, where the inspiring couple and their love of edibles and imbibables, will make any lover all things Italian swoon.
The Daily Meal: From where did your love of all things culinary develop?
Daniele Puleo: I grew up in Sicily and had access to some of the best quality food and wine in the world. Celebrating with food and wine and enjoying time with family and friends during meals is a part of everyday life in Italy.
What would you say is your overarching food philosophy?
Keep it simple. Don’t cover up the natural flavor of food – select the best quality of ingredients available and let the food speak for itself. Be creative with new plates, but respect the traditional recipes. There’s no reason to rewrite the classics.
How would you describe the vibe at CiboDivino?
CiboDivino has an industrial farmhouse feel. The design was inspired by some of our favorite places throughout Napa Valley. It’s bright, spacious, and comfortable with farmhouse tables that encourage neighbors to sit together, which adds to our goal of connection our community. Our window around the bar opens up to a small green park where kids are often running with a soccer ball or couples are enjoying authentic Italian goods and wine, all at retail value, on a picnic blanket.
Can you tell readers a bit about the inspiration behind your menus and what you are hoping to achieve with their offerings?
Our menu is authentic Italian and inspired by the season. We change pizzas, pastas, salads and our chef case by what is in season and available. As we move into fall, we will even be adding soup to the options at CiboDivino.
In addition to our food menu, we have a unique beer and wine program. We offer 11 local craft beers that rotate as new brewers become available and an Italian beer, Moretti. We carry over 350 labels of wines that I have personally selected. Our customers can pick any bottle, priced at retail value, and we will open it and give them stemware, allowing guests to enjoy the best wine at the best prices. Also, each month, I select a few wines to offer by the glass at the market, which is a special way for me to introduce and showcase a new winemaker or an interesting wine to our guests.
What do guests tell you they love the most about the restaurant, the menu, and the food?
It’s important to me that we know and listen to our customers. My wife, Christina, and I developed the space, but the customers are shaping the business. Since opening the market, we’ve added elements like Paciugo Gelato and the option to purchase 44 Farms Beef, items the community wanted from us, which we were happy to add for them.
What are some of your personal favorite menu items?
I am very passionate about our wine dinner program. Each month, I team up with a respected winemaker and we pair wines with regional cuisine, allowing me to serve my favorite creations from different regions of Italy. At these intimate dinners with a limited number of seats, we serve several courses, each paired with a complementary glass of wine. On Wednesday, October 19, I will host Petra Winery and on Wednesday, November 16, Marilena Barbera from Cantina Barbera Vineyard will co-host the dinner.
What are some of your favorite ingredients and/or cooking styles to experiment with right now?
Since we are a market and not a traditional restaurant, I am very excited about the Italian items that I am able to offer to our Dallas guests. I have beautiful jams and spreads from Fiasconaro, a notable pastry chef in Italy. During the holidays, we’ll have their traditional pannetone. We also carry Faella pasta from Italy and Balistreri anchovies.
What do you think is the most important thing that people don’t know about food right now?
Italian food in Dallas is many times misrepresented. Trust the Italians and make sure they are the ones cooking. A lot of people are changing recipes just because a name is fashionable, but these authentic recipes cannot be changed. If you want to change up a recipe, call it something else. This is the authenticity of Italian cuisine.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers about all things culinary at CiboDivino?
CiboDivino is always evolving. We are a small team that loves to try new things. This fall we introduced more grilling on the patio with 44 Farms Beef, some comforting warm soups and my Butternut Squash Lasagna as some new seasonal favorites.