Davio´s Northern Italian Steakhouse between Copley and the Theater District is tucked away in the armpit of the Hancock Tower in one of those cold financial centers constructed in glass and metal. It´s one of those big-city, big-ass steak joints with white linen draped tables, comfortable chairs and a long, sleek bar made of dark dark wood. It´s the type of place where business deals are closed over naturally aged, bone-in rib-eyes, gin martinis and bourbons neat. The type of place Don Draper and Roger Sterling would hang out to discuss a client or perhaps bring one to seduce him. This is the type of place I normally shy away from because there´s usually not much to review. A steak is a steak is a steak. It´s a piece of good beef, sourced from a farmer who really did most of the work. Chef doesn’t do much besides ladling some herb butter over the cut, slapping it on the grill, pulling it off at the right time and compiling a legit list of sides to pair it with. And nobody really cares about the creamy potatoes or truffle fries when faced with a 10 oz. center cut filet mignon. But, as far as these fancy steak dens go, Davio’s offers a pretty inventive menu. If I were reviewing the kitchen I would go for the cool stuff, like the Crispy Chicken Livers glazed with Port balsamic or the Lobster Bisque (mostly just to taste their lobster tomalley buttered crostini), but then I´d miss out on the big-ass steak, which I think is what a visit to Davio´s is more about.
At places like Davio´s I´m more comfortable with the bar menu, the mini dishes with which I’ve always thought the kitchen has the most fun. Everything looks good there: the blue cheese and bacon deviled eggs, the lobster gougères, the crab and spinach dips with Davio´s homemade and apparently trademarked chips. There are, of course, “kobe” beef sliders, fried calamari, shrimp cocktail and a cheese plate. And, lo and behold, a signature bar burger, this one from grass-fed River Rock beef with Vermont cheddar, bacon and herb aioli. But my mother, a regular, already knew what she wanted: the board with the La Quercia Prosciutto Americano, the salumi, the burrata and aged balsamic. A Tanqueray 10 martini for her, some short and fat little bourbon creation for me. And the pop-overs, of course. When at Davio´s you must have the pop-overs.
The board is pretty simple. La Quercia Prosciutto Americano made by a man named Herb in Iowa. A few ribbons of salumi. A ramekin of sweet fig and raisin mostarda. And a big ball of luscious and creamy burrata cheese, drizzled with good olive oil and balsamic. It goes slow, with my mom and I methodically piling the cold cuts onto slices of roll or just pinching them directly off the plate with our fingers. The salumi is tender and fatty, the prosciutto a bit drier with a fantastic balance of nutty, salty, smoky and sweet. The burrata is actually burrata, not mozz. The etherial white flesh gushes forth sweet, clean cream when sliced into. It’s perfectly stringy but not too chewy and the interior stays silky smooth and moist. And that mildly sweet dairy flavor is complemented so beautifully with the subtle vegetal flush of the golden oil that the combination makes me close my eyes at each bite and set my whiskey down so that the drink can’t overpower it. That’s more for the meats, not this.
The popovers are great too and they’re a cool signature. The oversized but hollow rolls are fun to pull apart, fun to eat, fun to smear mostarda on. The outside bakes to a great crust, crunchy but not too hard and complemented nicely with an eggy, moist interior.
I had a great time at Davio’s catching up over cocktails with the mom and this board fit smoothly into our night. It’s not overhyped (or hyped at all), yet all the ingredients are great, the portions and ratios right, the price not absurd, the service attentive. There are no house-made rilletes or pâtés, no house-pickled shallots, no house-bred-house-raised-house-slaughtered-house-butchered-house-ground-house-seasoned-house-stuffed (though “French-influenced”) sausage. But there’s also no bad attitude, no biography of the over-exhausted Berkshire pig that made it all possible, no gruff air of hipster charcuterie-art narcissism. No over-tattooed and over-pierced punk chef deeming himself omniscient and rattling off his unique method as if his guests were too stupid to understand or appreciate his creative vision. I get it. We all do. It’s great, really great, so stop showboating until you overdo and kill it completely. But I digress…
Davio’s leaves the funk, creativity and fanfare for more serious items on their menu (again, lobster tomalley crostini…) and keeps the assiette light and simple, as it should be. A good board with some classic standbys, great with a stiff drink and good conversation.