Peter Danis was poised at the edge of his wife’s hospital bed—excited, focused and ready to deliver their first child. Danis, an attorney, had told his wife’s OBGYN that he wanted to be as hands-on as possible during the birth of their baby girl. The progressive doctor more than obliged: She walked to the rear of the room and coached from afar, explaining what to touch and when to push. And baby Kevlin was ushered into the world by her father’s hands.
“Life is too short to practice law,” Danis thought. “I want to feel that same passion and excitement every day.” He and wife Laurie, who also was a practicing attorney, began dreaming up careers in food. “We wanted to do something that we were passionate about,” Laurie said. “And something we could do together.” So in 1991, they opened Figlio, a pizza and pasta restaurant in Grandview.
It eventually spawned two more locations—in Upper Arlington and Dayton—along with Vino Vino, a Grandview wine bar. A quarter century after the night that changed everything, the Danises, both 57, continue running all four successful restaurants, eating their way across the globe, and spending time with their three daughters—Kevlin, 25; Cameron, 22; and Kenzie, 19.
On being hands-on
Peter: We wanted to be intimately involved with every recipe, which we still are today. Every person who has been hired with us in 23 years, I have interviewed personally.
On recipe development
Laurie: I would do things over and over and over again. The chicken picatta dish we serve, I made at home every night for six weeks. The kids revolted—they would not eat any more chicken picatta!
On what keeps it fun
Peter: The evolving menu. Part of the reason we picked pizza and pasta are that those are palates we merely paint on.
Laurie: We’re also passionate about people. Peter is a great mentor, and he has mentored hundreds of young people.
Peter: You make good food, which tastes good and looks good, and you have nice people around you. It’s like throwing a party every night—you just don’t know who’s going to show up.
On their go-to pizza orders
Laurie: Mine is the truffled mushroom, with prosciutto and truffle oil.
Peter: Mine happens to be the pear and brie pizza. I love it. It’s that same kind of complexity of savory and sweet.
On other favorite restaurants
Laurie: I like Rioja in Denver. It is awesome. It’s probably my favorite restaurant stateside.
Peter: I’m going to say my favorite restaurant in the world—Mitch. It’s in Southern France, in Provence. It’s Mitch and his wife. I believe he’s a food genius.
On what Peter would title his memoir if given only six words
Peter: “I only have five years left.” Every day that I wake up, I say to myself, to make the most thoughtful decision, to make the best decision, you have to know you’re not going to be here forever. It truly comes down to, “Life is too short to practice law.” It’s that same philosophy.