Davanti Enoteca – Italian Small Plates on Taylor Street

I’ll start by saying, if you are looking for a traditional Italian restaurant, with spaghetti and meatballs, this is probably not the place you want to go.  However, if you want good Italian food, with some very unusual combinations, I would highly recommend Davanti!  The concept is small plates, meant for sharing, similar to Spainsh Tapas.  If you don’t like to share your food, also not the place you want to go!  The atmosphere is very nice and the the menu is varied, with something for all tastes.  I’d recommend Davanti for anything from a date to a casual group dinner.

The menu is divided into sections – Vasi (mini mason jars with toast), antipasti, boards salads, fromaggi + salumi (cheeses and meats), flatbreads, pizza, pasta, mains and daily specials.  I’d recommend staring with an antipasti, maybe a jar, one of the boards or some meat & cheese selections and a salad, or two.  Then I’d move on to a flatbread and a couple of mains.  How many choices you’ll need to make will depend on the size of the group.  The waitstaff can help you figure out the right amount of food.

IMG_0531We started with the Focaccia di Recco, which is a focaccia bread with soft cow’s milk cheese, be sure to add the local honey as it makes for a delectable starter.

My favorite pasta was the Caramelle di Zucca – butternut squash filled pasta pockets with brown butter, sage and hazel nuts.  It is a bit rich however very creamy with a hint of sweetness.

I’d also recommend the Bistecca on Patate e Cipollini – hanger steak with cipollini onion and fingerling potatoes.  The steak was perfectly cook and we were able to be cut without a knife.  The Capesante e Fregola – seared scallops with chantrelle mushrooms – was also excellent.

The wine list includes a good selection of mostly Italian wines.

Davanti Enoteca is owned by the same group that created the Purple Pig, so if you have been there, you will see some similarities which in my opinion, is a good thing!

http://www.davantichicago.com

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Siena Tavern – A Hot Spot with Good Food!

This is definitely a hot spot in town right now, and actually has been for some time!  During happy hour the bar is packed and most nights you’ll likely need a reservation to get a table.  I’ve been several times and while I’ve read some less than stellar reviews, I have not been disappointed by anything I’ve tried, though some things are certainly better than others.

The service is very good; during my second visit one of our dishes was delayed due to a kitchen issue and the manager came over to apologize; we were having a “girls” night out so had not even really noticed.  Without even being asked,  they took the charge for that dish off the bill.  I consider that to be over and above service.  In general, both the wait and bar staff is very attentive, and knows the menu, including the wine list, well.

For an unusual salad I’d recommend the Farro Salad.  The mixture of Farro, marinated calamari, shrimp and vegetables is topped with a  mustard vinaigrette.

IMG_0430They have a good selection of pasta, most with a unique twist.  If you are a mushroom lover, I’d recommend the Pasta in a Jar.  The pizzas are also good and are a nice size for sharing; my favorite so far is the Prosciutto Pear.

I think the most unusual thing on the menu is the Coccoli, which is a combination of crispy dough, Stracchino cheese, prosciutto and truffle honey.  It is absolutely delicious and melts in your mouth.  Just be forewarned, it is very rich!

A tasty side dish is the Sticky Parmesan Potatoes; they taste much more interesting than the menu makes them sound.

While the 6 plus inches of snow and ground definitely mean that patio season has quite obviously ended, they do have a decent patio, which I’ll look forward to visiting again next summer!

http://www.sienatavern.com