Knockout Noodles

Reviews of noodle dishes.

Knockout Noodles: Davanti Enoteca

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[Photographs: Roger Kamholz]

A precious few pasta dishes grace the menu at Davanti Enoteca, restaurateur Scott Harris's rustically appointed wine bar and shared-plates Italian restaurant. Davanti is somewhat of a newcomer to the Taylor Street dining corridor (it opened in September 2010) and, judging by the come-early, stay-late crowds, has successfully injected some excitement into the scene.

To be precise, there are five items listed under "Paste" on Davanti's menu, one of which is a risotto dish. Compare that with, say, the dozen pasta and risotto dishes on the debut menu at recently opened RPM Italian. (Balena, another newbie to the Italian-restaurant landscape, offers seven.) I couldn't help but take Davanti's relative dearth of noodle options as a sign of the kitchen's confidence; if pasta is the measure of a good Italian food, then these chefs have chosen to hang their toques on a pretty narrow hook.

The riccio di mare e granchio ($14)—aka sea urchin and crab—provided ample reassurance that Davanti's pasta menu is indeed well-curated. The nest of tender linguini came impeccably dressed, with each strand lightly lacquered in a urchin-tinged sauce that elegantly married rich butter and docile surf. While the kitchen wasn't especially generous with the crab meat, there was no lack of flavor. Thin wisps of green onion helped every now and then with a bit of fresh, sharp flavor.

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While the seafood linguini gingerly walked the line between rustic and refined, the uovo in raviolo "San Domenico" ($10) is a force to be reckoned with. As the name suggests, this dish consists of a single raviolo, stuffed with ricotta cheese, spinach, and egg yolk. It comes recumbent in a kind of egg-olive oil wading pool, garnished with more grated cheese. The decadent richness of the filling, in which the spinach admittedly seems to be lost, is of a piece with the al dente pasta—which is so pleasantly toothsome it practically bites back.

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You have to respect the skill involved in hand-making and cooking this raviolo, which oozes delightfully runny yolk when pierced.

Quite frankly, there's little messing around when it comes to Davanti Enoteca's concise and addictive noodle offerings. The menu favors filling over filler, refinement over range. And best of all, it leaves you wanting more, even after a sumptuous raviolo whose calorie count is best left unknown.

Davanti Enoteca

1359 West Taylor Street, Chicago, IL 60607 (map) 312-226-5550; davantichicago.com

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