Chow Bella

Daniel Malventano's Caffé Daniel to Open Monday, May 6

After construction delays and hassles with his wood-burning oven, restaurateur Daniel Malventano is finally ready to get back in the restaurant game, opening Caffé Daniel at the upscale strip mall at 32nd Street and Lincoln Drive on Monday, May 6.

See also: -- CLOSED: La Piccola Cucina in Central Phoenix

It's been a long time coming. Malventano thought he would open in October 2012, then the date got pushed to January of this year and now -- at long last -- he's opening in May, which is not exactly the height of season. But Malventano couldn't care less about the timing and here's why.

Malventano, who operated the same elegant restaurant from 1992 to 2008 under a series of different names -- first Il Forno, then Acqua e Sale and finally Daniel's Italian Cuisine -- says Caffé Daniel will be casual and inexpensive, the sort of place that appeals to locals who want to come once a week -- not tourists looking for glitz.

Although the interior doesn't have the finishing touches yet, it's plain to see that he means what he says -- kind of. Cafe chairs and bare wooden tables (no white linens) do set a casual, come-as-you-are tone, and yet Malventano couldn't resist hanging the same designer scarves he had at the Camelback location, and the old yacht theme (which translated to lots of pricy wood, meant to replicate the snug interior of a yacht) hangs on by a thread, thanks to pictures of boats.

Nevertheless, the menu -- which will feature renditions of basics from Italy and Spain ("the stuff I grew up with," Malventano says) -- will often skew rustic, thanks in large part to the wood-burning oven. Chef Michel Rastoll,who worked for Malventano from 2000 to 2008, will keep it simple for lunch, turning out antipasto, bruschetta, salads, panini and two pizzas. The dinner menu will feature specialties of the day as well as burrata with fava beans and prosciutto, butter-braised snails with fennel and garlic, pork tenderloin in red wine-prosciutto-plum sauce with caramelized Brussels sprouts and sweet potato mash and a rib eye with truffled fries and roasted vegetables.

Malventano (an Italian who grew up in Buenos Aires) doesn't want to get locked into the "Italian" label, saying he'll simply make things that appeal to him -- like paella or maybe a rustic beef stew come winter. Lots of dishes will have a light, healthy orientation as well.

We can expect a full bar, affordable wines and $24 wine carafes (which works out to about $6 per glass).

Meanwhile, Malventano seems excited to be back in the game. "I love what I do," he says, "and we're going to get back to the basics, doing something we know very well."

Address: 3115 E. Lincoln Drive, Suite 15, Phoenix Phone: 602-957-2224 Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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Nikki Buchanan