People love to hate on chain restaurants. We sometimes hate on chain restaurants. But you know what? That hate isn’t always warranted.
Especially if you didn’t initially realize the restaurant at which you’ve been eating is actually a chain.
We’d been to Davanti Enoteca’s Taylor Street location plenty of times, but it wasn’t until Davanti’s River North expansion that we recognized it had a number of other locations. Davanti Enoteca isn’t quite on the Cheesecake Factory level, but it does have five restaurants between here and California.
At first, this made us get a little down on Davanti, because, you know, who likes chains? But as we thought about it more, we realized that if you went to Davanti on Taylor Street not knowing anything about it, you’d walk away thinking it’s a cute little restaurant that perfectly blends into the Little Italy/University Village scene. So if anything, they actually deserve some credit for pulling this feat off. It’s not the kind of place that will blow you away, but the casual atmosphere, good food, and solid price point makes it a reliable restaurant deserving of return trips.
In terms of fancy sauce in the Italian restaurant scene, Davanti is pretty much the middle of the spectrum between places like LaScarola and Riccardo Trattoria. The menu has a number of sections ranging from “vasi,” which are patés, to antipastos, salads, boards, pastas, pizzas, and plates. Generally speaking, you can use that order as an ascending scale from small to large. We endorse most of the menu - and certain options, like the polenta and the burrata, are straight up excellent.
Davanti is Perfect For any Date Night or First/Early in the Game Dates, and you can never have too many Italian restaurants in the back pocket for those. You definitely can have too many chain restaurants in your repertoire, but fortunately for all of us, Davanti manages to escape that feel.
Ricotta & Honecyomb
Honey makes everything better (biscuits, friedchicken, tea, apples, McDonald’s chicken nuggets), and the same can be said here. Tasty ricotta with some added real honeycomb sweetness on the side.
Roasted Cherry Tomato, Burrata, Basil Pesto
Roasted tomatoes, creamy burrata, and a light basil pesto on top. Comes with bread too, and probably our second favorite dish behind the polenta seen below.
Mascarpone Polenta + Ragu of the Day
We don’t want to put a numerical ranking on our favorite dishes in Chicago, but this one is up there. Creamy polenta that serves as a structure of support for a hearty ragu over the top, which is always good no matter the meat.
Cacio e Pepe
Literally speaking, “cheese and pepper” spaghetti noodles. This dish has been off once or twice, but for the number of times we’ve ordered it, it shouldn’t be much of a concern. When it’s on, simple and impeccably prepared.
Pizza Della Terra
We don’t eat a lot of pizza at Davanti, but with larger groups it can be worth a try. We like this version with wild mushrooms, braised leeks, taleggio, and a little truffle oil.
Capresante e Fregola
Seared day boat scallops with chanterelle mushrooms, fregola sarda, which is similar to cous cous, and a little cured meat. By now you’ve probably had enough toast, and these scallops are a fresh way to cap things off.
Pollo Sole Mio
Grilled half chicken with a chili pepper paste. Surprisingly pretty tasty and great for sharing. The chili pepper sauce makes it all work.