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).