Davanti Enoteca recently hosted their “Nose to Tail Wine Dinner” at their Little Italy location (1359 W. Taylor Street). Tucked away in a dark and cozy back room lined with wine bottles, the event featured pork in each of the five courses and gave Executive Chefs Jim Day and Scott Ruzicka a chance to showcase their cooking creativity.
Sfinci: Crispy pig ears + chili marmalade + pork liver pâté with cherry compote + housemade head cheese + sticky ribs with pomegranate Barolo glaze, paired with Villa Sandi “il Fresco” Rose, Pinot Nero & Glera, Veneto, Italy
I’m going to assume that Sfinci means “starter” or “appetizer.” When I looked it up on the internet, it brought up recipes for sweet and savory fried dough balls that looked like a donut. That is not what we had at the Davanti Enoteca “Nose to Tail Wine Dinner.” The start of this meal was a beautiful antipasto spread: portabellas and prosciutto, liver pâté and headcheese. The star of the first course was the sticky ribs with pomegranate Barolo glaze, just the right combination of sweet and savory. Initially terrified of what a “crispy pig ear” might entail, I was relieved to discover fried pork rinds would be taking the place of an actual ear.
Pesci: Seared diver scallop + cavolo nero pesto + guanciale vinaigrette + fish roe, paired with Dr. Heyden “Oppenheimer” Riesling Kabinett, Rheinhessen, Germany
Company Sommelier Joel Filey thoughtfully paired the perfect glass of wine with each course. “People think that they hate Riesling, but they are just picking bottles that are too sweet,” he said, pouring a German wine to compliment the Pesci course. “The higher the alcohol content percentage, the dryer the wine. The 8% wine will be sweet. The 12% wine will be dryer…and taste better.” He was right. This Riesling was not too sweet at all with the scallop which was dressed with a guanciale vinaigrette. Guanciale is a cured meat product prepared from the pork jowls or cheeks.
Paste: Handmade pici + mini pork meatballs + salsa lucca + Sardinian pecorino, paired with Evesham Wood Pinot Noir, Willamette, Oregon
Pici pasta is thick, hand-rolled pasta. Fat spaghetti with meatballs. Spaghetti and meatballs is always my first choice at an Italian restaurant. Davanti Enoteca did not disappoint.
Intermezzo: Bodegas Obalo “Jovan” Tempranillo raspberry ice, Rioja, Spain
This lovely sorbet cleansed our collective palates, while Managing Partner Joe Christiano stopped by our table to make sure everything was flawless. (It was.) He explained that Davanti Enoteca is the modern Italian restaurant under the Francesca Restaurant Group umbrella, which also features Francesca’s Restaurants (rustic Italian), Fat Rosie’s (modern Mexican), Disotto (“like eating Italian in your Nonna’s wine cellar") and Hilltop Tap (suburban sports bar).
Carni: Whole suckling pig porchetta (carved in dining room) + local apple + pecan + smoked trotter stuffing, paired with Pala Cannonau Riserva di Sardegna, Sardinia, Italy
The showstopper of the evening was the presentation of the suckling pig that had been roasting for hours. Carried out on a long platter by two servers, the whole suckling pig with an apple in his maw was instantly Instagram-able. The room immediately smelled like fall and Thanksgiving: slow roasted meat and root vegetables with stuffing.
Dolci: bacon-nutella cannoli, paired with Frangelico Frappe cocktail.
Every extravagant meal needs to be finished with a sweet indulgence.
Should I do this? If you have the chance to do this, yes! Keep your eyes open for future wine dinners from Enoteca Davanti. They feature items that are not on their regular menu and $68 (plus tax and tip) for a five-course meal with wine pairings is a great deal.
Enoteca Davanti, 1359 W. Taylor Street, 312-226-5550