Thursday, October 17, 2013


It could be a trattoria in any small village in Umbria or even in the Maremma region of Tuscany, but it isn’t, your sitting in the trendy Virginia-Highlands neighborhood of Atlanta at La Tavola. This is the Fifth Group’s take on casual Italian dining with all of the romantic ambiance, cozy character, and deliciousness that one would find if in Italy.  The word trattoria is derived from the Italian word trattarsi, which means, “to treat ones self”, and at La Tavola its all about treating ones self to a dining experience that’s indulges the senses with pleasure.  The bustling kitchen is headed up by Executive Chef Brent Banda, whose passion is to make foods with bustling bright flavors. After a few bites, it becomes quite apparent that Chef Banda’s hallmark is all about letting the freshness of the ingredients to control the recipe and do they ever.

Italian foods are meant to go with Italian wines and vice-a-versa, and in Italy it’s an integral part of life’s daily ritual. Since most Italian wines have high acidity, they are prone to get the mouth salivating while cleansing the palate and preparing the taste buds for the next bite, what a fun way to have a meal. The wine list at La Tavola consists of mostly small production wines from Italy’s renowned vinicultural regions and is grouped based on the fullness of the wine’s character; explore the diversity of Italian wines with their outstanding wine by the glass program. If the thirst yearns for a more mystical play with wine, I strongly recommend the Angelina, I Adore You - a flute of Ca Furlan’s Prosecco with a splash of Aperol that’s garnished with a sliver of orange peel, this potion is all about enticing a little bit of love and oh-so more.

For a starter where simplicity drives the palate wild, order the Mozzarella Burrata and treasure the taste of a old world Italy. This handmade creamy treat is from Vermont’s Maplebrook Farm. What makes this burrata so amazing is how Chef Banda takes this time-honored luscious cheese that’s filled with fresh cream and stracciatelli (shreds of mozzarella), and marries it with tangy marinated cucumbers, fresh basil, and Calabrian chili oil putting a wow into sexy.  For a different, but equally mouth-tingling thrill try the Braised Artichoke Salad - tender chunks of artichoke that are given a hefty uplift with a lemon vinaigrette and 18 month old Parmigianino that are served over a bed of baby arugula leaves – yum!   These will surely to have the taste buds wanting more, and at La Tavola more is a good thing.

If you think you had the best pasta this city has to offer, wait until you try Chef Banda’s interpretations on pasta. To make great pasta is a labor of love, but to taste that love is breathtaking.  The Ricotta Rabbit gnocchi is simply a mind blow of rich robust flavors– the rabbit is braised for a few hours and made into a zesty ragu with fresh garlic and a tomato passata.  The gnocchi is finished with fresh marjoram and grated Pecorino Romano giving these silky dumplings a mouth-watering appeal.  Of all the pasta offerings, at least on one visit to La Tavola, the Squid Ink Linguine with Calamari and Thai Basil Pesto is a must. Fresh squid from Rhode Island are tossed with a lively Thai basil pesto, Calabria chili peppers and the most succulent long velvety noodles that one could ever want to taste. Go on Mondays, aka Molto Mondays, to treat yourself to a sampling of pastas for only $10.

Of the more classic Italian dishes, the Saltimbocca alla Romana is astonishing in every detail. Its name translates rightfully to “jump in the mouth”, and after the first bite one can understand why.  To reach this level of succulence, one must use quality veal, aged-prosciutto, and sage that’s garden fresh to do this recipe proud - at La Tavola the kitchen hits the bull’s-eye plus some. The dish that reminded me of sitting in a trattoria overlooking the fishing village of Orbetello is the Zuppa di Pesce. Fresh cherrystone clams, Georgia white shrimp, tender bits of calamari, chunks of the fish of the day (tilefish) that are all bathing in a scrumptious tomato-lobster brodetto; make sure to ask for some extra grilled bread otherwise you may be tempted to use a straw to get the last drops of this otherworldly broth – it’s OMG good.

Besides the thrilling pastas and breath taking entrees, La Tavola has an amazing dessert list that will make any sweet tooth perk up. Pastry Chef Hilary Irvine takes traditional Italian recipes and incorporates her own unique spin. Either the luscious vanilla bean or dark chocolate Semifreddo custards, or the Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake with fresh huckleberries are perfect ways to bring closure to all of the deliciousness at La Tavola.  So when that yearning to taste fresh foods in their full glory the way it’s done throughout the kitchens of Italy, La Tavola has a table waiting for you.  

Amicizie e maccheroni, sono meglio caldi.

LGTG FRIENDLY *****                                                                                          
FOOD *****                                                                         
PRICE *****                                                                         
AMBIENCE *****                                                       


La Tavola Trattoria on Urbanspoon

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