After four years away from the food business, Daniel Malventano, who formerly owned the elegant Daniel's Italian Restaurant on Camelback near 44th Street, will soon be back in action. If all goes as planned, he will open Café Daniel at 32nd Street and Lincoln on October 1.
This go-round, Malventano is forsaking high-end dining for casual, familiar Italian cooking done exceptionally well -- or as Malventano puts it, "the best rendition of the basics."
At the heart of his neighborhood, European-style café will be a spectacularly pricey seven-foot, 6,900-pound wood-burning oven, from which will emerge wood-roasted meat, poultry, fish, pizza and house-made bread, including daily-changing focaccia, rustic Tuscan bread, sandwich rolls and ciabatta.
What can we expect to see on the menu?
For lunch, there will be Italian-inspired entrée salads, panini, pizza and a few pastas, while the dinner menu (which also will offer pizza) will expand to include a wider variety of pastas (think pappardelle Bolognese with wild boar when available) as well as entrees (maybe wood-fired rib eye with fried potatoes) presented on white tablecloths for evening service.
Lunch prices will run around $8-$14, while dinner entrees will range between $12-24.
But make no mistake: Café Daniel will focus on homey, Italian comfort food standards, presented at "let's eat here twice a week" prices.
Anticipating that a few of his former Daniel's customers occasionally will get a hankering for old favorites such as Chilean sea bass or pasta with truffles, Malventano plans to make those dishes available with 24- to 48-hour notice, depending on the request.
Using the 1943 cookbook his mother painstakingly wrote to preserve the family's recipes, Malventano will reprise the fabulous apple strudel he occasionally served at Daniel's, adding both crepes with dulce de leche and Chantilly crème and fresh fruit macerated in Muscat.
However, if you're a cocktail culturist, forget it. Malventano plans to offer a solid selection of beer and wine, including champagne and the sparkling spumantes (such as Prosecco) of Italy.
"This is a comfort zone for me," Malventano says, "It's the food I grew up eating."
He asks me to tell Chow Bella readers: "The son of a bitch is coming back, and he's got the goodies."
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So there. I said it.