Davanti Enoteca Review
Davanti Enoteca has been on my list for some time since it has received quite a bit of press and being 100% Italian, I am always eager to find a really good restaurant to satisfy my cravings from the old country. Luckily, just the right opportunity presented itself recently when my parents and my aunt and uncle decided to make the trek from Ohio to Chicago for a visit. This was my aunt and uncle’s first visit to Chi-city and it came as no surprise that the first place on their must-see list was the Windy City’s own Little Italy. I had not been to the University Village/Little Italy neighborhood myself and could not wait to explore a quaint part of town with delicious bakeries wand sweet smells and the buzz of Italian people whirling around.
After two trains and a 20 min walk, we ended up in ‘Little Italy’. It was absolutely stunning outside for a mid-October Fall day and probably one of the last for the year. We found the restaurant and I put our names in and told the hostess we would be back in an hour (good thing I did, it was absolutely dead at 5:00 pm and within that hour the place turned into a zoo). We began walking around and didn’t see any signs of this Little Italy everyone had been hoping for. I began googling some of the bakeries and found they were farther west then the area where we were. Who would have thought that the area designated as Little Italy really only has a few Italian restaurants, some sort of Italian hall of fame, and a statue of baseball player Joe DiMaggio. Little Italy was a bust but fortunately we were able to look forward to the restaurant. Let’s get to it.
The restaurant is well designed. We were seated in a back room where the walls are lined with shelves of wine (they are a wine retailer and you pay a $7 corkage fee). Candles were lit in some of the empty spaces on the shelves which created a warm comforting glow. The light fixtures were unique (yes, I notice weird stuff like the hanging lights) and it was just a space you wanted to be in. Ninja star awarded!
As mentioned earlier, I was with my parents and aunt and uncle so obviously there was no romance in the air during this dinner. However, taking a quick scan of the restaurant revealed a demographic that was quite different from our table. The vast majority of parties were couples or double dates who were sharing their plates (the menu is designed for sharing). Davanti is a great place for a date. The wine is plentiful, the room has a good vibe, and the music compliments the room instead of inhibiting any conversation. I give Davanti the star and hopefully in the future I will be able to get to experience some of the romance that was buzzing around the room on Saturday night.
When you sit down at the table, you find yourself faced with a wine list which only contains full bottles. The by the glass menu and cocktail list was on another menu which was presented to our table and you can see below.
How fun is that? Kind of a dorky idea but I love it anyways. After eyeing the by the glass list and talking it over, we decided to go for a bottle of wine. I don’t care for anything too dry and despite the fact I wanted fish for dinner, I really wanted a red. We picked a wine from Elena Walch and it was perfect. Not too dry and the sweetness was well balanced. It went down too easy. I could have gone for another bottle… Ninja star awarded. They have a great selection and you can even take a bottle home.
The menu is designed for sharing and the waitress recommended two dishes per person. One from the top half of the menu (appetizers, cheese boards, salads, pastas) and one from the bottom (the entrees). The family was not in a sharing mood and everyone ordered two dishes for themselves. The first courses:
The escarole salad with gala apple, pecorino dolce, celery and hazelnuts was light, fresh, and the dressing wasn’t overwhelming. The hazelnuts added a nice depth and crunch. Yummy!
Next came the butternut squash salad with aged goat cheese and micro greens which just screams fall. There were some hazelnuts in this dish as well that contrasted nicely with the roasted squash texture. The cheese was creamy and didn’t overwhelm the dish.
The risotto carbonara was my personal pick and the risotto was cooked perfectly (not an easy feat but expected for an Italian restaurant). The pancetta was good (obviously) and the peas burst in your mouth creating a nice sweetness. The best thing was being able to mix the egg yolk in. I’m a sucker for that.
Finally, the riccio di mare e granchio (linguine, sea urchin, and crab)! I was hoping someone would order this and lucked out that my dad did. The linguine was fresh, cooked al dente, and the crab and sea urchin had a really great flavor.
On to the main event…
Pizza D.O.C is your basic pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil but it won my heart. Sometimes the simple dishes can be the true superstars and this classic hits it out of the park. The crust was perfect. The cheese was gooey and the basil tasted like it just came out of the garden. I kept stealing pieces of it.
There were several orders of the swordfish with brussel sprouts at the table (since Italians do not understand the concept of sharing their food). Mine was terribly salty (I had assumed everyone’s was but apparently this was not the case and the other two at the table finished the entire dish). I ate the brussel sprouts and opted for more pizza. This was the single disappointment in the meal. However, there were so many stars overall that I give Devanti the star!
Overall yummy in my tummy:
The dishes were all well executed and delicious. There were so many things I want to go back and try with a companion who is more willing to share (I still love you, mom!).
There was no way my mom was about to come to Chicago empty handed and given the sweet tooth that I have, she brought several desserts so I decided to go for a cappuccino and save myself for the goodies at home. The espresso was high quality and reminded me of a cappuccino I would have in Europe. No star here but I’m sure they would get it.
Little Italy may have been disappointing but Davanti Enoteca was anything but. 8/9 ninja stars awarded!