Chow Bella

Happy Hour Report Card: Davanti Enoteca

The Spot: Davanti Enoteca 6316 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale 480-659-1800

See also: -Happy Hour Report Card: Rusconi's American Kitchen -Pete DeRuvo Dishes on the Mouthwatering Italian Food He Grew Up On and Praises Three Local Chefs

Hours: Happy Hour is offered 3 to 6 p.m. every day.

The Interior: I've seen people turn up their noses and sniff, "corporate" to describe this regional Italian restaurant whose home base is Chicago. My response to that is "Yes, corporate. A ton of money poured into the decor and all of it well spent." Although the space (former home to The Quilted Bear) is large, with multiple rooms and dining areas, it still manages to capture the rusticity of small Italian villages, thanks to exposed brick, reclaimed wood, wine barrels, arches, light fixtures fashioned from kitchen utensils, wine jugs and harvest baskets. The lounge, which features a handful tall community tables, is a good place to hang out with a group and graze on small plates.

The Food: Davanti's happy hour menu is extensive, featuring 10 items, all of them tempting. Although it grieved me to skip chicken liver pâté, arancini, the pizza of the day and Tuscan fried chicken drummettes (with gorgonzola dressing), there's only so much room at the inn. So this go-round, I went with three of our server's suggestions, tacking on the burger (because I always crave one) and the already legendary focaccia.

I didn't think I could ever get excited about bruschetta again, but Davanti's version, which begins with house-baked bread, liberally brushed with olive oil and toasted until it's super-crunchy, turned me around. Topped with rapini pesto (just different enough to be interesting), chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of Parmesan, it's a tweaked classic I'll eagerly try again in some other rendition DeRuvo has dreamed up ($5).

A bowl of fresh clams, swimming in broth and smothered in escarole and house-made sausage, redolent with fennel, was everything our served promised -- rich and aromatic, with just a hint of chile heat. This one was fabulous, and if we hadn't already mowed through the bruschetta, we probably would've asked for bread to mop up every last drop of the broth ($8).

We couldn't get quite as excited about a cold plate of tart white anchovies (milder and far less salty than the ones put on pizza), shaved celery, pecorino sardo (firm sheep's milk cheese) and lovely, grassy-tasting leccino olives. Nothing at all wrong with it, just not a favorite ($5). I generally love sheep's milk cheese but not this one. Oh well.

Since I've been on the happy hour beat, I've had a lot of great burgers, and now I'm adding Davanti's to my "best" list. Loved the smoky, juicy meat and the inspired toppings -- roasted tomato, bacon jam (yeah, Baby!), cheese curd, roasted garlic mayo and arugula. Good brioche bun and great shoestring fries too ($8).

If you're mentally locked in to happy hour prices, the Focaccia de Recco ($18), which isn't on the happy hour menu, may seem outrageous. But you shouldn't miss it. A specialty of Liguria, it's nothing like the thick, fluffy, bread-like focaccia we're used to but rather a thin, crispy cracker bread, filled with a layer of melted crescenza (aka stracchino, mild and creamy). Served with a tiny cube of sweet honeycomb to smear over the top, it's outrageous all right -- in a good way.

The Drink: Every beverage on the happy hour list -- which includes Davanti spritz, Daily Infusion (creative cocktail), clean, crisp Zonin Prosecco, Peroni beer and three wines (two of them red) -- is priced at five bucks. Gotta love that. This is, after all, the part of happy hour that makes us the most happy.

Conclusion: This is a terrific happy hour. Love the choices, the prices, the friendly service and the quality of the food and drink. Honestly, I can't wait to do it again.

Grade: A

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Nikki Buchanan