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If you’re going to lay claim to the terms “authentic” and “Italian” when talking cuisine, it helps when your bloodstock is bona fide, too.

That’s the case with Sicilian-born Davide Valenti, who has been at the helm of Davide Italian Café for the past five years after previously working for more than a decade at other Marco restaurants.

And before that, around the country.

“It was my dream to come to America when I was a young boy,” says Valenti, whose baritone, melodious Italian accent is as much a part of the café as the Italian décor, indeed the Italian cuisine, and certainly the joie de vivre that resonates throughout the café.

Picture a down-home Italian restaurant filled with chatty, friendly locals and visitors making dining a celebration, and you get the picture.

Valenti has paid his dues, working in subordinate positions that, of course, broadened his knowledge and expertise. So, when he and his Peruvian-born wife, Juany, saw the opportunity to establish a restaurant at a former bakery and chocolate factory at the Island Plaza off Bald Eagle Drive and Collier Boulevard, they took the proverbial plunge.

“We are successful,” says Valenti, whose three dozen or so menu items are all his own creations.

“I passed them on to my chef (Eric Castillo),” he says. “In season, we sometimes do about 200 plates a night.”

On this particular evening, Valenti supervised the cooking and presentation of a pasta alla Norma (homemade pasta with eggplant, sausage, garlic, fresh chopped tomato and ricotta salata); pizza Italiana (also homemade, with prosciutto, arugula and shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese), and linguine con vongole (with fresh clams in a light tomato sauce in a garlic white-wine lemon sauce).

The café serves lunch (with the accent of soups, sandwiches and pizza) Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and dinner Monday through Saturday from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

If you go

What: Davide Italian Café

Where: Island Plaza, at Bald Eagle Drive Drive and Collier Boulevard

Cuisine: Italian

Beverages: Beer and wine

Prices: Between $5-$10 for lunches, and $11-$20 for dinner

Catering/take out: Yes

Reservations: In season, or big groups

Call: 393-2233

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