488 Ninth Ave (37th St)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 273-1181
Sat: 4pm - 11 pm
Sunday 2pm-11pm (2-5 brunch)
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Chef: Nicola Accardi
2nd Cuisine: Pizza
Area: West 30s
Entree Price: $15-$30
Inspiration for Tavola originated from chef/owner, Nick Accardi's extensive travels visiting Family members in Sicily. With a purist approach to cuisine and a appreciation of a bygone era, Accardi's apparition was to deliver a menu using the freshest, locally sourced Produce, Fish, Meats and Wild Game in the true cuisine of his Sicilian roots. The Restaurateur/chef was determined to create an experience for his patrons identical to that of a trattoria in Castelvetrano, Sicily or a family member's dinner table in that very same town... Hence the restaurant's name, Tavola. (Table in Italian)
If the people around me had been speaking Italian instead of English, I’d have sworn I was in Rome. Tavola, a popular spot in a very unlikely area, has a totally Italian vibe and great food. My veal and wild boar (assume that’s a foodier way to say ‘pork;) meatballs were fluffy and perfectly seasoned. The arugula and asparagus salad, one of the daily specials, was dressed with a little lemon and high quality olive oil, the whole topped with generous shards of a Pecorino-like cheese. A great espresso topped off a lovely lunch.
Tavola has two long, communal tables for people who enjoy rubbing elbows with fellow diners. Service is sweet and highly professional with waiters who know what they’re serving and seem to enjoy their work. The pizza oven, made of clay from the area around Mt. Vesuvius, is part of the open kitchen and turns out a large variety of pizzas ranging from a classic Margarita to one with Brussels sprouts and smoked pancetta. There is another wood-burning oven for roasting meats and fish. Order salumi and you get a plate of treats like prosciutto, sopressato, coppa and other delights. At the next table, a group of guys were inhaling the wood-roasted pimentos; nearby, a family group tucked into various pastas of which there are plenty: whole wheat penne with peas and mushrooms, home- made lasagna, and linguini with tomatoes and more of that excellent olive oil. Gluten-free pastas are available.
There are many wines by the glass as well as bottles. More wine bottles sit on shelves and the ambiance is enlivened by a display of olive oils, tinned sardines and other Italian products on the shelves near the front door. On the way to the restrooms, you pass a large, red Mobil Pegasus sign like those that used to adorn gas stations. The pressed tin ceiling, decorative ceramic floor tiles scattered judiciously, ceiling fans and Italian grocery store signs add to the atmosphere—it’s a sort of old world/new world mix in the best way.
One of the nicest qualities about Tavola is its authenticity. No heavy chicken Parmesan, a non-Italian dish if there ever was one. This food is the real deal, light, well-seasoned and regional if you assume a region stretching from Rome south to Sicily. Pasta dishes are sauced as they are in Italy which means they aren’t drowned so if you order the rigatoni Bolognese, you taste the wild boar and veal in the sauce but the dish isn’t swimming in it.
Next time I will definitely order the grilled sardines and the spicy pizza –unless I can’t resist the lasagna or the day’s specials that are printed on a blackboard and recited by the waiter. Prices are reasonable for food of such high quality and a charming atmosphere that attracts a local crowd meaning people who actually live in the neighborhood. Even when full, the noise level is more than manageable and the total experience left me wanting more very soon.
Review By: Mari Gold