Review: A Tavola Pizza

A Tavola

margherita + prosciutto

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.

A Tavola

cauliflower salad

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.

A Tavola

margherita + pork shoulder

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.

PhotoI 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.

A Tavola

bacon + brussels sprouts

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.

A Tavola

grilled peaches

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.

A Tavola on Urbanspoon

  • OTRgal

    love the food, but the service leaves something to be desired.  i’ve come in twice with a party of five and the hostess can never find a place to put us.  i understand a big party being difficult to seat, but five people? not very accommodating.  they made us feel like we were inconveniencing them.

    • OTRgal

      that being said, i do want to clarify that it’s a great and much needed addition to the neighborhood.  hope they work out the kinks soon!

      • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

        I agree– I think that they need to figure out how to accomodate parties of more than four but less than, say, eight or come up with a system for that communal table. I don’t think they’ll even push tables together. It’s why I can’t recommend it for larger parties; 4 or under and it’s pretty simple. They were nice to our 7-top, but weren’t terribly communicative as we waited.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      I agree– I think that they need to figure out how to accomodate parties of more than four but less than, say, eight  or come up with a system for that communal table.  I don’t think they’ll even push tables together.  It’s why I can’t recommend it for larger parties; 4 or under and it’s pretty simple.  They were nice to our 7-top, but weren’t terribly communicative as we waited.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      I agree– I think that they need to figure out how to accomodate parties of more than four but less than, say, eight  or come up with a system for that communal table.  I don’t think they’ll even push tables together.  It’s why I can’t recommend it for larger parties; 4 or under and it’s pretty simple.  They were nice to our 7-top, but weren’t terribly communicative as we waited.

  • http://twitter.com/ChromeOrange Chrome Orange

    Any chance you could add captions to your images so we know what it is ? :)

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      sure!

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      done!

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  • Guest

    The califlower-salsaverde-fontina pizza was excellent. The deep fried fennel a mistake. Service was fine. But what really stood out was the noise. Man, is this place loud! It’s all hard surfaces, nothing to trim the edge. And that’s before they pipe in the pointless music. It’s no wonder they don’t accommodate large parties. What would be the point? No one three seats down would be able to hear each other, anyway. Something needs to be done– that, or only go when it’s pretty empty.

  • Bdraznik

    This is Bill, one of the owners of A Tavola. We are working with an architectural acoustics company to dampen the sound, and we very much understand how too much noise can ruin a meal.

    I apologize that there have been service issues with the larger parties. We will work on a better system to accomodate 5+ people. Thanks for the feedback.

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com Julie

      Thanks, Bill!  Always great to see restaurant owners join in the conversation.  Always appreciated.