Scott Harris » Chef/Partner, The Purple Pig; Chef/Owner Mia Francesca
When partner Scott Harris opened the doors to Mia Francesca on North Clark Street in 1992, he created a trend in the Chicago restaurant scene that has become a benchmark for urban dining. Harris believes that serving great quality ingredients and large portions amid a fun atmosphere is the reason for his success today.
Harris and his four siblings grew up on Chicago's South Side with a carpenter father and waitress mother. Early on, he knew his passion was in the culinary field. His first job was as a dishwasher at Fox’s Pub in Orland Park. “The chef, 'Stretch,' took me under his wing and helped show me the ropes of the kitchen,” he recalls. The next natural step was attending culinary school at Joliet Junior College, where he completed a two-year bachelor's degree in Culinary Arts.
Harris went on to work in many well-known Chicago restaurant kitchens, including The Signature Room at the 95th, Ambria, Cucina Cucina, Harry's Café, Sole Mio, and Trattoria L'Angelo di Roma, as well as Petthany's in St. Croix.
Fueled by his desire to provide Chicagoans with a new style of dining, Mia Francesca was the culmination of these years of experience. "Mia Francesca was a departure from what was happening in the Chicago dining scene," Harris says. "We were purposely informal, but we didn't compromise the quality of the food. We took away the pretentiousness of the restaurant scene and offered an exciting dining experience -- simple, rustic cooking and flavors, great service and good prices," Harris says.
Mia Francesca was touted as an immediate success by the press and patrons alike, including being named Chicagomagazine's "Critics' Choice – Rookie of the Year."
Harris has expanded his vision to include additional restaurants throughout the Chicagoland area*, each time partnering with astute restaurant professionals and often including each chef as a partner. This managerial philosophy of building working partnerships, not just obtaining financial backers, has had a direct influence on the success of his restaurants.
"We have really created a family of restaurants; everyone involved has a vested interest in each restaurant's success," Harris says. "Each retains the energy of Mia Francesca, yet stands distinctly as an individual location. The basics are in each restaurant, just as the basics are always in the food we serve. Every time a guest walks in the door, I want them to have the same great experience. Consistency in food and service is the essence of my business. Each Francesca's restaurant stands on its own."
"The excitement of bringing a new restaurant to life is one of my greatest challenges and thrills," Harris says. "As a partner in The Purple Pig, I'm thrilled to be able to work with such an esteemed local culinary figure as Jimmy Bannos. I've been able to collaborate with him and his son, Jimmy Bannos Jr., in bringing a unique Mediterranean wine bar to downtown Chicago."
In addition to the 22-and-growing Francesca's across the country, Harris has also opened T-Bones Steakhouse in St. Charles.
Other ventures also include Nella Pizzeria Napoletana, with locations on North Clark Street and the other on Taylor Street in the heart of Little Italy. He is presently working on a new project with good friend Chef Dean Zanella called Al’Dino’s, also in Chicago's Little Italy.
*La Sorella di Francesca (Naperville), Francesca's North (Northbrook), Francesca's on Taylor (Little Italy), Francesca's by the River (St. Charles), Francesca's Amici (Elmhurst), Francesca's Campagna (West Dundee), Francesca's Bryn Mawr (Edgewater), Francesca's Tavola (Arlington Heights), Francesca's Fiore (Forest Park), Francesca's Intimo (Lake Forest), Francesca's Vicinato (Palos Park), Francesca’s Fortunato (Frankfort), Francesca's Passaggio (South Naperville), Francesca's Forno (Wicker Park), Francesca's Famiglia (Barrington), Francesca’s Bellezza (La Grange), Francesca's on 95th (Oak Lawn), Francesca's at The Promenade (Bolingbrook)