Chow Bella

Chef Pete DeRuvo to Head Kitchen at New Davanti Enoteca

Pete DeRuvo -- the peripatetic chef who made a name for himself at Sassi, then moved to Prado and later left Cuoco Pazzo in a huff -- has landed a new executive chef position he's pretty psyched about.

He has signed on with the Chicago-based Francesca's Restaurants Group, which will open its fourth Davanti Enoteca this August in the former Quilted Bear space at Scottsdale Road and Lincoln.

Jeff Cohen, director of operations for the group, describes the Italian restaurant as a "small-plates wine bar concept," where the atmosphere is casual and the pace relaxed (enoteca means "wine shop" or "wine bar" in Italian).

As DeRuvo puts it, "This is real Italian-style, where people want to hang out for a while. It's not 'let's hurry up and eat and get out of here.'"

The wine list will skew 80 percent Italian, 20 percent everything else, including Malbecs and other popular wines of the moment. Meanwhile, the menu -- which both DeRuvo and Cohen describe as simplicity itself -- looks terrific.

There's not a single dish that reads like the usual Italian-American or Northern Italian we're served ad nauseam here in Phoenix. Here are a few examples:

Grilled asparagus + black pepper mascarpone + pickled rhubarb

Linguine + sea urchin + crab

Seared octopus + warm fingerling potato salad + marcona almonds + finnochiona + fresh horseradish aioli

For more mouthwatering descriptions, check out davantichicago.com or davantisandiego.com.

DeRuvo is currently undergoing total immersion in Francesca's corporate culture at the Del Mar location, which must be brutal for the poor fellow, what with the sand and surf and all.

Once the restaurant's up and running, he'll be making house-made salami and using the special porchetta roaster on whole pigs. And because Davanti is an enoteca, we can also expect an appealing selection of cheeses, including Grana Padano, Pecorino Sardo and Robiola Rochetta.

The Focaccia di Recco (crisp, cracker-like baked focaccia, layered with super-soft cow's milk cheese, sprinkled with sea salt and topped with honeycomb) is purportedly outrageous. Can't wait to find out.

Stay tuned to Chow Bella for an exact opening date.


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Nikki Buchanan