It’s unfair to write a review of a restaurant based on opening night. I had heard about the soft opening for A Tavola, and being I lived so close, made a beeline. I realized, however, that in the interest of fairness, I had to go again. Actually, to be precise, I had to go three more times, with three different groups of people. Consider this well-researched.
A Tavola started as a monthly pizza party at Take the Cake in Northside. It became so popular that the owners, Billy Draznik, Jared Wayne and Sam Ginocchio, decided to open a restaurant. It’s the latest addition to the Gateway Quarter, and judging by my visits, it’s going to be a popular one.
The space itself is open and very modern– high ceilings, wood floors, and tables all handmade by the owners. It stays relatively cool on hot days– impressive– and the kitchen is open so you can watch them make the pizzas and other dishes. There’s a great bar (with great bartenders) serving up house-made ginger ale and other fresh cocktails. Their Ginger Beer Me is very nice, but as a whole I haven’t imbibed much at A Tavola.
Service is good– though I don’t recommend this place for large parties, unless you can get the communal table in the back (which you need to sign up for early). Otherwise, you end up at two different tables, sitting at two different times. If that’s okay with you (it was with us!), then go for it. I would prefer if they coursed the food (appetizers first, then pizza), as now they bring it out whenever it’s ready. That could mean that your pizza comes out well before your friend’s. On one of our visits, they ran out of dough as they were making our pizza, leaving us with a bit of a pizza donut. They served us the pizza but took it off of our bill– and the hole was so small they could have easily overlooked it. Food, overall, comes out very quickly– I’ve made it in and out in 45 minutes.
The food is a work in progress. They’ve changed their menu a couple of times in the month they’ve been open, but it features many house-made, house-cured items: house cured bacon, prosciutto and pork shoulder sourced from Dean Farm’s red wattle pigs and house-made ricotta to name a few, and the quality shows in their food.
I have tried, on different occasions, two of their salads: the grilled asparagus salad is a summertime treat, with just a bit of bacon to break up the asparagus, arugula, and vinagrette. It took me several visits to try the often sold-out roasted cauliflower with vinagrette, which was absolutely simple but delicious. Both are very healthy options that would make any vegetarian happy.
The bruschetta are great: I love the ricotta and corn bruschetta, which is almost dessert-like with the sweet corn. Heaven on a plate, however, is the bacon tapenade and goat cheese bruschetta. Tangy goat cheese plus salty bacon? Really, really good.
Pizza is also nice, and one serves two people very easily. I’ve had the margherita with both prosciutto and pork shoulder, the pork shoulder and caramelized onion pizza, and the brussels sprout and bacon pizza. Their meaty pizzas are spot on, with a good proportion of meat, cheese, and sauce without being overwhelming or messy. I wish they’d put the caramelized onion pizza back on the menu, as caramelized onions are quite possibly my favorite thing– even better on pizza with their pork shoulder. The brussels sprout pizza, while good, needed more brussels sprouts– there were only a few on it, and I would have liked to have seen more. The crust is chewy and a little crispy, with a lot of smokiness from the wood fire. The pizzas average around $12, which is great for two people.
I have had dessert only once. They initially used desserts from Take the Cake, but I think they’ve gone away from that, and now have two relatively simple desserts: vanilla gelato with espresso, and grilled peaches. The grilled peaches are perfect. I love grilled peaches to start with, and they’re topped with a huge mound of lavender-scented whipped cream. It was absolutely heavenly.
This is a busy place: we’ve had to wait on a Tuesday, and on that same night they ran out of pizza. They’re going through some growing pains as far as supply versus demand. I am hoping, however, that they get past these issues, as their food and service are solid and the prices affordable. Welcome to the neighborhood.