Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Tavola: A loud gem in the Gateway Quarter

      A Tavola (to the food table) Bar & Trattoria is the latest restaurant in the Gateway Quarter, which is basically Vine Street north of Central Parkway to around McMicken Street.  It’s turning into a major gentrification project for the city and has been about fifteen years in the making, initiated because of Lynn Meyers’ incredible efforts through the Ensemble Theatre.  It’s reminiscent of the 1980s Soho in New York before it became so chic that the diverse personalities that gave it life could no longer afford it.  Hopefully, that doesn’t happen here.  

The "Kitchen" at A Tavola
      It opens at 5 p.m. and patrons were lined up outside at 4:45 and it was packed by 5:15 p.m.  The reasons for this are the food, the service, and the vibe.  It’s a long, narrow restaurant with a brick wall on one side and wood everywhere else.  It’s both rustic and sleek, but it’s LOUD.  According to a gentleman we spoke with on the way out, a sound engineer has worked with the owners on taking the noise level down because there are apartments upstairs.  Once this happens, A Tavola is going to be pretty unbeatable.

Stuffed Dates
Watermelon and Feta

      Lisa joined us and we each ordered the house made ginger beer as a non-alcoholic version.  It was potent and spicy, just as it should have been.  There is a large collection of libations offered table side or at the popular bar.  We decided to try a couple of antipasti dishes.  The first was the dates stuffed with house sausage, wrapped in
bacon and served on tomato sauce.  There were sweet, sour, salty, and with a touch of acid.  This was an almost perfect appetizer.  We also shared a special appetizer that night.  I’ve made a version of it in the past as a finger food, but this was their version:  watermelon pieces with feta cheese and fresh basil drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.  It was a large portion that worked well for the three of us.  

Fig Jam, Prosciutto,
Fontina Cheese, and Arugula Pizza
Brussel Sprout, Caramelized Onions,
and Fontina Cheese Pizza
      We ordered the fig jam, prosciutto, and arugula with fontina cheese pizza and the brussel sprout, caramelized onions, and fontina cheese pizza.  These are thin crust pizzas baked in a wood fired oven from Italy.  Both were excellent and fontina is both subtle and a great textural background for the other ingredients without overpowering those flavors.  Desserts are limited to soft-serve gelato (from a mix) and a daily feature.  We decided to pass.  Service is friendly but brisk.  Those pizzas are prepared and cooked quickly and we were out of A Tavola in less than an hour.  Since there isn’t a separate waiting area, it’s not a place where you want to linger because of the guilt factor in trying to avoid the eyes of the waiting patrons. 
A Tavola on Urbanspoon

While the guys and Lisa were out enjoying their food, I was busy trying to catch a fly that got in the house. Luckily, he ran around the inside of our lampshade until he was silly.  Tired from all of his buzzing, I finally got him!

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