Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Tavola: Duck Wings to Ligurian Seafood Stew

The pandemic has been devastating to the restaurant industry, and those restaurants which opened at the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic struck, have been significantly struck. Once restaurants were permitted to open, it has been much tougher for these restaurants to make their mark. However, some of these restaurants have perserved, and definitely are worthy of your attention. 

Back in January, Chef Joe Carli became the new owner of A Tavola, an Italian restaurant in Winchester, and you can check out my early review at A Tavola in Winchester: Welcome To The New Owner, Chef Joe Carli. I also interviewed Lynsey Robbie, the General Manager and Wine Buyer, in The Mind Of A Sommelier: Lynsey Robbie. I was impressed with the restaurant but then it had to shut down for a time. 

Since its reopening, I've dined there several times, and it remains an excellent restaurant. In addition, A Tavola has a special Pantry menu where you can purchase various foods for home enjoyment such as home-made pasta, home-made Bolognese sauce, fresh baked sourdough bread, DIY Drink Kits, and much more. I've availed myself of their pantry multiple times and very much enjoyed the meals we made at home from the supplies. They still offer their Pantry menu and now is a great time to stock your own shelves for the winter. Plus, they have a number of Thanksgiving dishes which are available for order by Friday. 

Over the weekend, I dined at A Tavola once again and Chef Carli and his team continue to offer a compelling dining experience. 

Their Wine list is all-Italian, relatively small but with many intriguing choices. It's a well-curated list that doesn't offer the usual suspects. Instead, you'll find a number of small production wines, plenty of diversity, and which should please any wine lover. Prices can also be quite compelling. 

We ordered a bottle of the 2016 Colombera & Garella Bramaterra ($59), an excellent selection at a value price as this bottle usually retails for about $45, so their mark-up is much lower than usual at a restaurant. This wine is a blend of 80% Nebbiolo, 10% Croatina, and 10% Vespolina, all grown on volcanic soils, with about a 13.5% ABV. It was fermented in concrete tanks with native yeast, and then aged for about 24 months in 6200-liter Slavonian oak botti. Delicious and acidic, there was a pleasing melange of flavors, from red fruits to floral notes of roses, a strong minerality to a touch of earthiness. It was approachable and a perfect pairing with hearty dishes, like their Bolognese. Highly recommended.

As an appetizer, I opted for one of their Specials, Crispy Duck Confit Wings, made with kale, pickled tumeric watermelon rind, and agrodolce syrup. More restaurants should offer duck wings as I think they often are much better than chicken wings. And these Duck Wings were killer, with delicious crispy skin atop moist, tender and flavorful meat. Each bite brought such gustatory pleasure, and they could be one of my top ten dishes of the year. I also was pleased with the tiny cubes of pickled watermelon rind with its strong turmeric kick. 

As for entrees, one of our choices was the Ligurian Seafood Stew ($33), made with scallops, calamari, shrimp, a spicy tomato brodo, fregola, and grilled sourdough topped by a basil pesto. Filled with plenty of tender seafood, the broth was rich, flavorful and had a delightful spicy kick. A hearty stew for chillier weather, it is well composed with layers of flavor.

The Bolognese ($29) is composed of a beef, pork and veal ragu, with basil, oregano, and parmesan atop their house-made Mafaldine pasta. You receive an ample portion of this hearty dish, and you'll be glad of that as it is so delicious. Again, there are layers of flavors with plenty of meat, and the Mafaldine is an excellent vehicle for the ragu. I've always been a big fan of a good Bolognese and this dish delivers in so many ways, and definitely is one of the best Bolognese in the area. It's even better that you can purchase the Bolognese sauce and Malafadine pasta from their  Pantry menu and compose the dish at home. 

A Tavola continues to be consistently excellent and Chef Carli has created a fine menu of Italian specialties, especially excelling on his pasta dishes. The wine list is also compelling, and having some delicious wine with your Italian cuisine is a must. We need to support our local restaurants and there are multiple ways to do so for A Tavola, from dining there, getting takeout, or ordering from their Pantry menu. And if you see those Duck Wings on the menu, get some!

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