When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Davanti Enoteca Location: 6316 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale Open: A little over a month. Eats: Modern Italian Price: Between $20 and $40 per person.
See also: Pete DeRuvo Dishes on the Mouthwatering Italian Food He Grew Up On (You Will Be Jealous) and Praises Three Local Chefs (Although One Goes Un-named) See also: Peter DeRuvo's Davanti Enoteca Now Open for Lunch (Plus, the Menu) See also: Chef Peter DeRuvo Shares What's in Store at Davanti Enoteca
There are many times in life when the real thing doesn't live up to the buzz that preceded it (thank you very much, The Dark Knight Rises). This isn't the case with Davanti Enoteca. All the talk you may have heard is true. And I've got the photos and still-tingling taste buds to prove it.
Opened in early August in the former home of the Quilted Bear in Scottsdale, Davanti Enoteca is the newest home (and third location) of the Italian restaurant from Chicago-based Francesca's Restaurants Group (which also brought Mia Francesca to the Valley).
Headed up by chef Peter DeRuvo (formerly of Sassi, Prado, and Cuoco Pazzo), the menu is a large selection of sharable modern Italian fare. If you're unsure where to start, friendly and knowledgeable servers can assist, although I'm convinced there are few places, if any, where one can go wrong.
A must-try is the focaccia di recco with local honeycomb. At $18, its price may seem a bit startling, but, like most of the dishes here, worth every cent. The thin, baked bread is golden brown and bubbly, wonderfully crispy, and filled with lusciously soft cow cheese. And the accompanying melting honeycomb, meant to be spread on top, adds sweet to the savory. My server may have put it best when he said, "You're going to have fun eating this dish. It's already good, but the honeycomb triples the dish's flavor."
For vegetable lovers looking for a bit of garden gourmet, there are roasted hearts of palm ($12) whose cylindrical ivory tops tinged with brown look like the veggie version of a campfire marshmallow and whose taste is somewhere between artichokes and mushrooms. Served with grilled tomatoes barely able to hold back their juiciness, both vegetables are topped with lemon jam and razor-thin slices of marinated lemon, whose rinds add a perfect amount of bitterness to the tart in every bite.
In the pasta section, there is stellar housemade orecchiette ($15) -- whose name comes from its shape resembling a little ear -- mixed with sausage, bright green and beautifully bitter rapini, grated Pecorino, and chiles that provide a nice backdrop of heat.
If you are adventurous, you will want to order the stellar polpo con rafano ($17). The dishes features two seared octopus tentacles dappled with a zingy fresh horseradish aioli and hugging a mix of potato fingerlings, celery root, sweet and subtle Marcona almonds, and tiny cubes of highly flavorful Finnochiona salami. It is as artfully presented as it is a unique and expertly balanced medley of tastes. There is nothing like it in the Valley and I've yet to stop thinking about it.
After dinner, if you have room, you could order a thick slice of crust-less and dense goat cheesecake ($7), but be warned, its tangy flavor is intense. Thankfully, there is a delectable salted caramel sauce that helps cut its potency, as well as clusters of candied Marcona almonds.
Davanti's unique and flavorful food seems nearly effortless when considering its casual atmosphere of denim-clad servers, lounge-y waiting area, and classic rock playlist. The multi-room space is bigger than it looks from the outside, with contemporary rustic decor touches like reclaimed wood, basket lamps, and a wine-case wall surrounding diners at tables or in leather booths. Plus, the restaurant's got sommelier and manager Dave Johnson on hand to help in the libations category -- bonus.
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Believe the buzz. Davanti Enoteca just might be your new favorite restaurant. But the only way to find out is to get there, fast, before it's everyone else's, too.