Me: “We would like to have the amazeballs pizza please”
Bartender: “The one with the soft egg and crispy pork belly”
Me: “Yep, that’s the one”
Bartender: “What did you call it”
Bartender: “That’s what I thought you said”
Me: “It’s like when something is more than amazing, it is amazeballs. At first, you think you can’t pull off, saying something like “amazeballs” and you just giggle every time you say it, but just keep using it and it grows on you”.
This was the first of three encounters I had at Davanti Enoteci this past spring. I found Davanti as I was on the lookout for a new food joint between the West Loop (my neighborhood) and Hyde Park (where a friend lives). After some moderate searching, Davanti surfaced to the top of the short-list and I was eager to head to Taylor St. to this little eatery in Little Italy across from its sister restaurant, Mia Francesca’s, Davanti means joint across the street in Italian.
Davanti is the latest opening from Scott Harris, who is the man behind the curtain at Francesca’s and Purple Pig. While Francesca’s has some solid classic Italian dishes, don’t think of Davanti as in the same family; it’s more like a distant relative, think more like your funky and awesome Aunt Sally (or whatever your aunt’s name may be).
Like many new restaurants in Chicago, it doesn’t take reservations, which might be its only drawback. But, don’t let that stop you. Keep in mind you shouldn’t go after 5pm on a weekend night unless you’re okay waiting – waiting while wafts of ricotta, honeycomb and grilled crostini deliciousness pass by. The ambiance here is rustic meets contemporary and for those who are serious about food but with no pretense. The pizzas are set on giant tomato cans, the wall is mostly exposed brick with sayings that read “eat real butter; it’s from cows not chemicals” and Of Monsters and Men playing in the background.
Dantani is meant for sharing with mostly small plates and pizzas – so make sure you like who you go with. My favorite: the Pizza della Fattoria aka the amazeballs pizza. With crunchy pork belly, thinly sliced potatos, scallions, and a béchamel sauce, I was in heaven and then just like that, they crack an egg over it that continues to cook on top of the pizza as it is set on the table. The thin and crispy crust, breakfast ingredients, and fresh farm-to-table egg made my night. And if that’s not getting you hot and bothered then make sure to try the daily ragu – I had the wild boar with a creamy mascarpone polenta. Their salads aren’t anything to bock if you want to go that route … think warm tuscan kale + guanciale + orange pecans + pecorino crotenese.
Did I mention the wine list? It’s great but what is better, is there knowledgeable and friendly bar staff. And a little secret, attached to Davanti is a retail wine shop where you can purchase any wine you fancy and drink it at Davanti for a $7 corkage fee. Guessing by now you’re already on your way there.