Davanti Enoteca, Near North Side, Chicago

DAVANTI ENOTECA
30 E Hubbard St 
Chicago, IL 
60611 United States
Italian – Communal Dining – Date Night – Free WiFi
$$
For our first night in Chicago, my sister couldn’t have chosen a more perfect place. The seating areas were ridiculous! I love how suitably heighted the ceilings were, and the way they made use of the space. Located in Near North Side, Davanti Enoteca was both cozy, and provided a very nice family-diner feel. I immediately felt at home as we were quickly seated upon reservation and slipped into our booth, We started off with a Pinot Grigio, and excitedly wandered our eyes up and down the Dinner Menu. Reading the menu, it feels like you were at a completely foreign restaurant, words are just thrown at you. I’ve learnt that evening that “Vasi”, meaning, “Mini Mason Jars” is my favorite Italian word. You’ll see exactly why in a bit! A pointer is to keep a look out for the English translation or glossary somewhere about the page and you’ll be fine.
Simply, Italian food with a modern twist – Davanti Enoteca is all about communal dining, which means, smaller dishes, but more dishes to taste and share around! Be prepared to order for 1.5x the amount of people you’re dining with.
1. Ricotta & Honey ($9)
Served with Tuscan Toast

Oh boy, oh boy. The first dish of the night, and what exactly made me fall in love with Davanti! The perfectly light and creamy Ricotta is served in a Mini Mason Jar a Vasi – hey look, we’re learning! with a delightful actual piece of Honey Comb. It was suggested for us to mix the Honey Comb into the Ricotta Cheese jar, but we instead found much more excitement and joy into spreading a light layer onto our Tuscan Toasts, and going for gold, however we wished with the Honey Comb. Just like my rice-to-meat ratio, I expected the same with the Ricotta & Honey, but I forgave them with this dish, because you really only need a smiggen to spread and enjoy the Tuscan Toast
After falling for this one, I definitely, totally need to put the rest of the Vasi options onto my must-eat-list when in Chicago!
2. Orechhiette con Salsiccia e Rapini ($15)
Handmade Little Eats, Sausage, Rapini, Pecorino & Chilies

This was delightfully light tasting. Very nice! The Orechhiette, also called “Little Ears”, were perfectly cooked, and it’s slightly doughy self went well with the bitterness of the Rapini and flavoursome Sausage.
3. Riccio de Mare e Granchio ($15)
Linguine with Sea Urchin & Crab

You bet we liked this one. I would totally just go for a whole dish of Riccio de Mare e Granchio for myself, it was so good. The flavours of Sea Urchin and Crab were both very pronounced, lacing each thread of Linguine so well. There was also a minimal, tasty amount of crab.
4. Charred Cauliflower Steak ($9)
With Sicilian Tapenade, Crispy Ceci & Marinated Lemon Jam
5. Roasted Corn ($10)
With Walnuts, Mixed Mushrooms & Aged Goat Cheese

Dangit, so many delicious pastas, these vegetable-based dishes were a must to have along side! The Charred Cauliflower Steak didn’t provide many flavours worthy to go back for, it was very mediocre – but, the Roasted Corn Salad definitely did! I was very surprised by the simplicity of this dish, and how with simply roasting the cob, it took it to a whole ‘nother level! A simple combo that has inspired me to create delicious dishes like this of my own – just drizzle with Olive Oil!
The whole night was beautiful. Of course, this is another (maybe) biased review because of the wonderful time that my tastebuds had in Chicago. But, If I went to cram a bunch of restaurants into one night’s stay in Chicago, Davanti Enoteca would definitely make the list. If I lived in Chicago, I would be visiting this place at least once a month. The service was swell, they were always right there when you needed them, and were never overbearing at all. A great place with a group of friends, and an even better double date spot!
Must eats:
– Ricotta & Honey ($9)
– Any or all of the Vasi’s – for my sake, please.
– Riccio de Mare e Granchio ($15)
Davanti Enoteca on Urbanspoon

Xoco, Northside, Chicago

 Starting off Chicago with a hell of a lot of good eats, thanks to my incredibly familiar Chicago-loving Sister. My biggest trouble with visiting a new city has always been relying – a tedious amount – on Yelp, then ending up with a dish infront of me that was way below the hype! My biggest key in life, is not to expect too much, but Yelp twists these expectations for me way beyond my ideal. Big examples, are extended to (of course) my soiled trips around the U.S. Xoco is one of Rick Bayless’ three beautiful restaurants, situated on the single strip in Chicago on North Clark St. Xoco focuses on a good ol’ spot for Takeaway, Breakie, Lunch, and Late Night options, filling the menu with a heap of Street Food – both sweet and savoury – by the dish!
The first bite to invite my descent into falling in love with Chicago, Xoco was definitely the right place. Bold flavours ooze into your mind as you go over the menu – Chipotle Catfish, Iced Mint Chocolate, Wood-roasted Suckling Pig….. Holy moly. This was just too much for me to imagine, we went with a few good intros. Being sick for the first week in Chicago, we stayed clear of anything fried, which was a pity since we really wanted to have a go at a good platter of their House-made and Fried Tortillas and Guac.

1. Ahogada ($10)
Golden Pork Carnitas, Black Beans, Tomato Broth, Spicy Arbolchile Sauce & Pickled Onions
Skipping the Tortillas and Guac to ensure our speedy flu-recovery, the Ahogada had the same concept of dip-and-eat. The sauce provided a very tangy and sour-spicy taste, it’s a must try! The Pulled Pork was a tasty helpful amount.
2. Pork Belly ($12)
Dark Salsa Negra Glaze, Bacon, Arugula & Queso Anejo Cheese
Xoco’s Wednesday special here! The Pork Belly was full of flavour, one that I’ve never experienced before. It had a strong dark sauce, saved by the slight bitterness of the load of Arugula.
3. XOCO Salad ($11.50)
Romaine, Arugula, Marinated Black Beans, Crispy Tortilla Threads, Avocado Lime Dressing & Grilled Onions (+ Golden-Crispy Chicken [+$2])
This was a great salad! Not so much worth the price like the other menu items – but, it was very inspiring how simple it was. Also, the Tortilla Strings that it’s topped with was a small sample of what their in-house made Tortillas taste like, mmhm! The Marinated Black Beans were a great protein-fit, while adding the extra bit of Crispy Chicken was definitely not worth it – there were only a few scrawny pieces.
The service was friendly and speedy, it’s such a great place for a quick snack! They also have a tiny, tiny high-bench seating patio out. I was to come back for their dandy Bacon-sprinkled Soft Serves, but we didn’t find the time. Definitely want to try out their sweets another time, the Churros are calling my name!