Restaurants offer twists on Italian cuisine

October 8, 2010 (CHICAGO) Taylor Street has plenty of dried pasta and red sauce already, but the new Davanti Enoteca is hoping to give the legendary street a shot in the arm -- in part, by offering Italian dishes that actually speak to the traditions of the old country, like homemade polenta, poured at the table, then filled and covered by a rich, veal ragu.

"You know, we're trying to bring something a little bit new to Little Italy, to the Taylor Street restaurant scene. I mean, you know, this is hopefully a concept people are going to get behind, kind of the newer-age Italian foods," said chef Jonathan Beatty.

Part of that newer age includes more than just margharita pizzas: try melted leeks and mushrooms, for instance. Also, an impressive selection of salumis and other cured meats, plus a cheese selection that eclipses most of the restaurants in the neighborhood. Even ravioli is unique.

"The giant ravioli that we do is really great. It comes from San Domenico, which is an amazing Italian restaurant in Imola, in Italy. It's spinach and ricotta filling with egg yolk. And it's finished with parmesan cheese and brown butter," Beatty said.

Vibrant antipasti selections include oily white anchovies with crunchy celery and briny olives; sardines are roasted, then stuffed with a Mediterranean trifecta of fennel, pine nuts and green olives. Even chicken gets an update, sort of. Paying homage to an old friend, this version is rubbed in a chile-garlic marinade, roasted in the wood-burning oven, then served over dressed romaine lettuce wedges with sliced radishes and finally, sauced with its own pan drippings.

"It's something that the owner, Scott Harris, used to make at Sole Mio, for Dennis Terzak, 20 years ago now. And it's a dish that's really close to his heart. So, he didn't want to change it at all," said Beatty.

Even though it's Taylor Street, there is no eggplant parm or lasagna on the menu. And that's a good thing because after all, there is more to Italian food than just a couple of cliches.

Davanti also has a great little wine shop in the back, where you can either pick up a bottle to go or just pay an extra corkage of seven bucks to drink it in the restaurant, with your dinner.

Davanti Enoteca
1359 W. Taylor St.

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