Tag Archives: Dario Schicke

Mary Joseph’s Series of Fortunate Events

June 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ask Mary Joseph, owner of Tasty Pizza (formerly Tasty Pastry), how she wound up running a restaurant in Omaha, and be prepared for a story of fortunate coincidences. She has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Born in Jamaica and raised in Costa Rica, Joseph attended college in Massachusetts to study pre-med and international relations before moving back to Costa Rica to finish her degree. After a chance conversation struck up with a fellow passenger on a plane trip in 1997, she would eventually marry that fellow passenger—a man who just so happened to be from Omaha.

After moving to Nebraska, she attended a neighborhood party and met Dario Schicke and his wife Amy. The two women became friends. In a conversation about hobbies, Joseph mentioned she liked to bake and eventually baked a chocolate cake for the Schickes. When Dario later opened his restaurant—Dario’s Brasserie in Dundee—he asked Joseph to bring in her chocolate cakes for his customers.

Thus began her foray into cooking and baking as an occupation. “Dario was a huge inspiration—both him and his wife, Amy,” Joseph says.

Tasty Pizza, located at 5423 Leavenworth St., has been open for “about four years off and on,” Joseph says. It didn’t take her long to realize a pastry shop just wasn’t her cup of tea. “I knew the very first day,” she says, explaining that soup was quickly brought into the mix because being open lunch hours meant customers typically wanted lunch. “Soup was a hit,” she says, “but cooking good soup isn’t just about following recipes. It’s about food technology.” Soup proved too frantic a menu item to feature, with intricate preparation and last-minute adjustments making things stressful.

Not afraid of trying new things, Joseph and her staff played around with a few different ideas for a new focus. Once pizza appeared on the menu, Joseph was sold on the idea.

She liked the predictability and organization of running a pizza line. Patrons enjoyed the ability to customize their toppings or choose from artisanal pizzas that the staff created. Hence, Tasty Pastry evolved into Tasty Pizza.

Joseph attributes some of her success to other local restaurants near her that are willing to work as a community and share knowledge and advice. She also cites her staff as helpful and inspirational. “I’m lucky, I have to say,” she admits.

“I love to cook,” Joseph says, adding “I love Omaha.” Tasty Pizza, which she opened as something to do while her kids were at school, continues to thrive. She won’t predict what the future will hold, as she prefers to live in the moment.

Joseph is doing what she loves (in a place she loves) while enjoying the reciprocal love her customers give Tasty Pizza. It’s a story many years—and twists of fate—in the making.

Visit tastypizzaomaha.com for more information.

This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Sitting Down, Slowing Down

October 15, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The vibe of Market House restaurant hits customers in the face upon walking in the door—almost literally. The dark interior doors of former tenant Vivace have become a lime hue that projects the type of restaurant diners are about to experience—fresh, green, and interesting.

Such is the same with the chefs at the helm. Executive Chef Matt Moser, formerly of Plank, and Chef de Cuisine Ben Maides, formerly of Avoli Osteria, take pride in crafting their own menu, and restaurant, from start to finish.

The pair, however, originally turned down the gig.

“Nick (Bartholomew) originally approached me to be the chef,” Maides says. “I had no intention of leaving Avoli.”

“And I had an opportunity elsewhere,” Moser adds. “But that didn’t pan out.”

The pair eventually ended up recognizing they wanted to run a restaurant.

“We hadn’t not known each other very long,” Moser says. “I met Ben through a mutual friend when they came into Plank.”

They discovered they share a similar approach to cooking, eating, and running a restaurant.

Moser graduated in 2002 from Millard North, and in 2005 from Le Cordon Blue in Portland, Oregon. He came back to Omaha to work at the French Cafe, then traveled to California, where he cooked in Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach. He bounced back to Omaha to V. Mertz, and spent five years with Flagship restaurant group, helping to open Blue Sushi Sake Grills in Denver and Fort Worth.

“For the first time in my career, it’s modern American cuisine,” he said of Market House. “We can do whatever we want.”

While Moser discovered the fresh, local approach to eating so prevalent in his casual-contemporary gig on the West Coast, Maides’ slow-down method of cooking and eating comes from international travel. He was born in Switzerland and moved to Omaha at age 9. He graduated in 2004 from Westside and in 2006 from Metropolitan Community College. Among his passport stamps is San Cascino in Northern Italy, where he worked at a five-star restaurant and learned the style of cooking owner and executive chef Dario Schicke sought for Avoli.

The third note in the triad is Sous Chef Chase Thomsen, who, unlike Maides, Moser knew well.

“I’ve known him since middle school,” Moser says. “He came to Plank and worked for me then moved on to Taxi’s. When I came here I knew he was looking. I know his work ethic, I know his talent, we’re lucky to have him here.”

Moser and Maides agree, and collaborate, on cooking methods and ingredients. They love to cook in their off-hours—Moser with his wife, Cathryn; Maides with his girlfriend. They own dogs. They also like to eat at restaurants in similar ways.

Moser says, “We discovered we both like to order three or four things and just pass them around the table.”

“Let’s stop, let’s sit down, and let’s eat,” Maides says. “We’re going from surviving
to enjoying.”

That idea of not just eating, but communal dining, inspired Market House. The seasonal menu contains eight passable small plates and five shared sides, along with soups, a salad, and six larger entree-sized plates.

“We like to go to the starter menu, the smaller plates,” Moser reiterates.

The chefs want their customers to experience their love of food in the same way.

“Ben and I get excited when we see Nancy (Crews) of Swallows Nest come through the door with new vegetables,” says Moser, who himself gardens avidly. “That excitement extends to the front of the house and out to the guests.”

The staff at Market House don’t just tell you that roasted grapes with chèvre is on the menu, they tell you where the grapes and the goat cheese came from. They tell you the story of why they love the farmer who makes the cheese. The process of ordering at Market House, like the process of eating, causes patrons to ease their pace.

Slowing down doesn’t mean the restaurant isn’t busy. Several people occupy tables at 2 p.m. on a Monday, lingering over plates of food, and, in a couple of cases, glasses of wine. That makes Moser and Maides happy.

“We’re cooking food we love, and we hope everyone else does, too,” Maides says.

“Yes, we work long hours, but my favorite part of the day is when we get to sit down and talk about what we did, and what we can do better,” Moser adds.

Sitting down, slowing down—a typical day at Market House.

MoserMaides

Avoli Osteria

June 13, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Throughout American history, Italian food has been one of the most popular ethnic cuisines in the states. Like in America, Italy has different agricultural and culinary regions. Southern Italian food is typically what we see here in America. Dishes like pizzas, pastas with zesty marinara sauce and eggplant parmesan are what most Italian restaurants in America feature. The north of Italy is more mountainous and is close in proximity to France. This area is known for its meats, sausages, cream sauces, butter sauces, and hard cheeses. Personally, I have always preferred the food from the North and find it more interesting and diverse.

True Northern Italian restaurants are not nearly as well represented in America, especially here in Omaha. When Chef/owner Dario Schicke and Chef Ben Maides opened Avoli Osteria in Dundee, they brought true Northern Italian cuisine to Omaha, and they did it right. It is obvious to this reviewer that a lot of painstaking research, planning, and extensive travel went into the opening of this nationally acclaimed restaurant.

The designers also knew what they were doing since the restaurant is very handsome with its painted cement floors, marble tabletops, and black wooden chairs. I particularly enjoyed the eccentric collection of formal chandeliers randomly hanging from the ceiling. For me, combined with the tea candles, they give the restaurant a classy yet funky look. I would be willing to bet that you could find a restaurant in Piemonte that closely resembles this one because it does have a true Northern Italy feel.

Enough of the fluff, let’s talk about the food, because that’s where this restaurant really shines. On a recent visit, my dining partner and I started off with their Beet Salad, $9. This delicious salad features arugula, ricotta cheese, and eggplant. We also had the Roasted Eggplant Bruschetta, $11. I am a big fan of bruschetta and this might be some of the best I have ever tried. We also sampled the Ravioli di Zucca, $15. This incredible dish featured hand-made ravioli stuffed with butternut squash in an amazing brown butter sauce with pumpkin seed and fresh grated parmesan. For the second course we had the Grilliata Misto, $31. This platter featured a melt-in-your-mouth hanger steak, a savory house-made sausage, and a perfectly prepared portion of fresh mackerel. This is a selection to get if you really want to see what Northern Italian cuisine is all about. We also tried the Mezzaluna Tirolese, $13. These delicate half moon shaped pastas were stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese, tossed in a light broth sauce, then topped with a tomato concasse and fresh grated pecorino Romano. As if all that was not enough we also indulged in the Whiskey and Honey Chocolate Cake, $8. This delectable dessert also featured an olive and Sea Salt Gelato. All I can say is that if they have this dessert when you are there, don’t even hesitate, just get it!

As you might expect the well-curated wine list features labels from the northern growing regions of Italy, including wines from the Piemonte, Toscana, Fruili, Veneto, and Alto Adige regions of Italy. If you are not familiar with these wines, fear not, as the servers are all very friendly and will happily guide you through the list. Speaking of the service, it also receives my top marks. I was blown away with the depth of menu and wine knowledge my server possessed and her attentiveness was also appreciated.

These days, Omaha’s restaurant scene is at the highest level that I have ever seen it. There are so many great restaurants here for us to enjoy that it sometimes makes choosing difficult. That being said, I consider Avoli Osteria to be the most important new restaurant in our area and one that every Omahan should be sure to check out. Cheers!!