Sounds steamy, no? It was a cold and rainy Saturday and my neighbor LG and I had a hot date with an Italian….restaurant, that is. La Tavola is a stone’s throw from our place, but I had never visited until last weekend. Despite its longstanding reputation as Virginia Highlands’ best trattoria, my general disdain for Italian food has kept it at the bottom of my “to eat” list.
However, the recent onslaught of Northern Italian restaurants opening in Atlanta and the inevitable media dinners that followed have softened my view of this often bastardized cuisine. LG and I arrived for our reservation but didn’t make it past the front door, being seated at a two-top by the window in front. The narrow space is dimly lit and packs in tables New York style, making conversation with neighbors inevitable.
The first order of business was selecting wine, white for LG and red for me. The well-edited wine list was not mostly Italian as expected, but included a variety of wines from around the world. I asked our server to select a wine for me based upon my preference of a full-bodied peppery red. He chose an Argentinian malbec that fit the bill for $10 a glass. LG followed suit and was pleased with his selection as well.
We requested bread service and I was glad to see it served with butter and not the ubiquitous bowl of olive oil for dipping. However, the bread’s crust was rather charred. Prior to our visit I checked out the menu online, excited to try their duck breast with Brussels sprouts. Alas, it was the only entree that was missing, and my favorite vegetable was nowhere to be found either. So, I went with plan B, ordering the pork cheek appetizer and the smaller portion of the squid ink linguine with calamari.
LG tried the beet and farro salad to start followed by the Italian classic veal saltimbocca. Check out the size of that cutlet! Paired with roasted fingerlings, prosciutto, frisee, and sage, the dish was the perfect antidote for this unseasonably Wintery weather. Another glass of wine warmed us up further.
Artfully presented, the pork cheek was fork-tender, accented with a semi-sweet pancetta marmalade. This dish represents why my attitude toward Italian food is changing….no marinara here, just straightforward deliciousness.
My pasta was a composition in black and white….linguine colored black by squid ink topped with white rings of squid. Lightly dressed with Thai basil pesto and Calabrian chilies, I twirled it, slurped it, and licked the plate clean.
An apricot and bucheron tart was an interesting combination of sweet and savory, however I found the texture of the cheese somewhat off-putting in contrast to the soft fruit. I was hoping for a more rustic crust rather than its standard pie shell, but it was devoured nonetheless.
LG and I enjoyed our date with this hot Italian. Perhaps next time the weather will be hot too so we can check out the patio in the back.
992 Virginia Avenue NE 404-873-5430