A Tavola, a new and compelling Italian restaurant in Winchester. And don't worry if you are not that adventurous, as you can find classic dishes too, like Tagliatelle Bolognese.
Chef Vittorio Ettore (pictured above) is the owner of Bistro 5 in Medford, which opened in 1999, and last November he opened a second restaurant, A Tavola. I have long been a fan of Bistro 5 and you will find numerous positive reviews of it on my blog. In addition, it was selected as my Favorite Suburban Restaurant for three years running and I interviewed Chef Ettore for my Culinary Creativity series. So, I was excited to learn about his new restaurant, to see how it differed from Bistro 5. I expected A Tavola to live up to the quality of Bistro 5, though I knew that is not always a given with a chef's second restaurant.
Chef Ettore stated to me that A Tavola is the type of restaurant with a menu like how they eat in Italy. He has roots in Tuscany though stated the menu will contain dishes from a variety of Italian regions. This is an incentive for him to learn more regional Italian cuisine. In the near future, the restaurant will host special Regional Menu dinners, presenting three courses from a specific regional cuisine.
It is a small and intimate restaurant, elegant without pretension, and plenty of dark wood colors. There is an open kitchen and six seats directly in front of the kitchen. I sat at this counter, with a front row view of everything happening in the kitchen. As I have said before, I like an open kitchen and think it shows the confidence of the chef and his staff. And if you don't want to watch the kitchen, there are plenty of tables where you can remain out of view. For a weeknight, the restaurant was fairly full, including all of the seats at the chef's counter.
I ordered a bottle of the 2010 Anna Maria Abbona "Sori dij But" Dolcetto di Dogliani ($46 & which retails for about $17). This Dolcetto sees no oak so the fresh fruit is prominent, including cherry, blueberry and raspberry with mild herbal notes. It was light, with mild tannins, and had a pleasing finish. A nice start the meal. I also later ordered a quartino of the 2008 Querceto Chianti Classico ($14), a medium bodied wine with nice red fruits accented by some blackberry and spice. It was a nice pairing with the pasta dishes.
The fact the wine list contains only Italian wines does not bother me at all, and I respect their decision to try to maintain a certain ambiance. There are plenty of choices on the list which should be able to please any wine lover. It is not snobby or pretentious to do this, it is simply a way to provide a more authentic Italian dining experience. So expand your palate and delve into the diversity of Italian wines.
One dish that I did not taste, though I look forward to checking it out on a later visit, is their Seafood Risotto, which is served to 2 or more people for $25 per person. The Risotto can be served as Red, White, Yellow or Black and comes with mussels, shrimp, calamari, scallops and the fish of the day. As it is made to order, it takes 30 minutes to prepare.
I didn't need to decide what to order off the menu as Chef Ettore prepared a tasting menu for me.
I should also note that if you have a nut allergy, you need to be very careful, as there are nuts, of various types, in many different dishes. As food is generally made to order, it probably would not be a problem to have them leave out those nuts in many dishes.
Maplebrook Farm in Vermont, and is topped with sea salt, black pepper, Falconero EVOO and Aged Balsamic. A wondrously creamy and moist burrata with the slight sweetness of the balsamic. Who doesn't like burrata?
The Salumi board contained, from left to right, Lombata (Berkshire Pork Loin Lomo); Cingbiale (Wild Boar Prosciutto), Anatra (Duck prosciutto) and Lamb Sopresatta. The Cingbiale, from the sirloin, was cured with juniper berries and black pepper and that pepper was originally to keep rodents and insects away. The Anatra was topped with shaved foie gras torchon and aged balsamic, a decadent delight that was silky and rich. The salumi came with some pickled veggies, carrots and green beans. The charcuterie had tasty, clean flavors, each with its own distinctive taste.
(My dinner was complimentary and there was no obligation on my behalf to review the restaurant. In addition, if I did choose to review it, I was under no obligation to say anything in particular, or refrain from any specific comments. Everything was solely at my discretion.)