William Steven Dilegge
Chef and Owner
At the age of thirty-three, Chef and entrepreneur Billy DiLegge has established a legendary reputation among knowledgeable diners for the exquisite and innovative Italian cuisine, purveyed at his restaurant on the Connecticut shoreline, BILLY’S PASTA COSÌ.
Instilled with a love of fine cooking from his family while growing up in Waterbury, Connecticut, DiLegge began his career in the restaurant business at the age of 14, as a busboy, dishwasher and assistant in a catering business. He refined his passion for the art of fine cuisine while still in high school, working his way through kitchens of many of the best know restaurants and hotels in the area of his Connecticut home.
Accepted into the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York, DiLegge honed his skills in every aspect of the culinary arts while there and interned at Arthur’s 27 at the Lake Buena Vista Palace Hotel in Florida. Following graduation with high honors, he moved to the renowned Bellini’s in Hartford and served as Chef at Diorio’s, an upscale Italian restaurant in Waterbury, Connecticut.
One year later, at the age of 22, DiLegge established Pasta Così in Branford, Connecticut, as a retail takeout shop, selling fully prepared entrees and gourmet pastas, much of it to other Connecticut restaurants. Specialties included unique raviolis, such as lobster, gorgonzola and walnut, wild mushroom, cheese, sage and pumpkin, as well as asparagus and smoked mozzarella. Patrons may choose from a variety of fresh-cut pastas, including angel hair, penne, spinach linguine, black pepper fettucini, parsley and garlic rigatoni, and roasted red pepper fusilli. Soon, tables were added and DiLegge’s intimate establishment began attracting diners – and regional food critics – as word of his enticing fare began to spread. The Hartford Courant wrote, “Pasta Così offers a menu that’s far broader than what ought to be feasible in a minute place like this. From the opening notes of the grilled Portobello mushrooms, sprinkled with pine nuts and Dark-roasted onion slivers, to closing rendition of bracciole, beef rolls with golden raisins in the Sicilian-style sauce, this was an ambitious meal.” Today, Pasta Così has a three-week wait for a weekend reservation.
As a chef/owner, DiLegge was one of those responsible for the start-up of Café Bella Vita, also in Branford, which specialized in regional Italian cuisine. He operated the Café for more than a year, before moving on to other endeavors.
Based on the success of BILLY’S PASTA COSì, DiLegge perceived that the demand for his pasta sauces featured there was strong enough to support marketing them direct to the consumer, and he established a separate business for that purpose. Named after his restaurant, the sauce line is now sold at fine gourmet and specialty stores throughout Connecticut, such as Big Y and Hanoford Bros., as well as in Stop & Shop supermarkets, New England’s leading chain of retail food stores. For the everyday cook, Chef DiLegge created his own Fresh Marinara, Arabiata, Puttanesca and Roasted Garlic sauces to capture the taste of his famous restaurant at home.
In 1998 along with partner Richard Finateri, Billy DiLegge opened another restaurant in Branford, Connecticut. In contrast to the casual “pasta factory” style of Pasta CosÌ, IL Pranzo is deemed, by national food writers, to be a sophisticated café notable for its exemplary service, attention to detail and innovative, northern Italian cuisine.
Patricia Brooks in The New York Times commented that “…every detail at IL Pranzo in Branford seems to have been carefully planned… That same meticulous attention has been focused more closely on the northern Italian food.”
According to The Times, “The menu isn’t large, but it is certainly interesting, and, in all four categories – antipasti, insalata, pasta and secondo piatto – there are exciting choices… The melanzala Napoleon… was indeed celestial. Each ingredient played off against the others, like a well-rehearsed jazz quartet… Pasta and entrée shared the spotlight equally well. Good choices included rigatoni con salsiccie e ricotta, anatra, and meaty pan-roasted veal chop… It would be difficult to surpass the mustard-coriander crusted. Beautifully undercooked salmon…”
In addition to the numerous kudos his restaurants have received from food writers, DiLegge was nominated for “Rising Chef of the Year” for Food & Wine Magazine by Jacques Pepin, Celebrity Chef and Food Critic. Involved in the shoreline Connecticut community where his restaurants are located, DiLegge supports numerous community organizations including an annual dinner to benefit the local AIDS Foundation, the Jimmy Fund, and other charitable events where his cuisine is featured.
Always actively engaged in pursuing new challenges, Chef DiLegge has begun work on a Cookbook compiling many of his favorite recipes, which will debut soon, and a new sauce to add to his retail food store line. Plans for future include expansion of the distribution of the Pasta Così sauces to more outlets, State and region-wide. Ultimately, if his goals remain on target, diners will be able to experience Chef DiLegge’s creations at a restaurant he hopes to open in a major U.S. city.
In his recipes, presentation and approach to restaurant service, Chef DiLegge Billys himself as “Old School.” Reviewers have called his dishes “serious,” “complex” and “faultless.” From the home-made specialty pastas and sauces of Pasta Così to the sumptuous, elegant Northern Italian fare at IL Pranzo, Billy DiLegge’s philosophy of “quality first” pervades his cuisine, his restaurants and his line of specialty sauces.