Restaurant Review: La Tavola
La Tavola has a big, beloved history on the local dining scene. Originally an establishment in Powell, it moved over onto Riverside Drive for a few years. Then, in 2009, it stopped existing altogether while the owners started a restaurant project called Knead down in the Short North
Now in 2014, La Tavola rides again. The restaurant opened in Grandview, off the main stretch, in a modest-looking building on First Avenue.
A funky seventies-styled retro sign marks La Tavola’s new digs. Through the front door is a restaurant that’s very hip –and hip in a nice way, not in a poser, hipster way. There’s a splashy wallpaper that plays off the color of the chairs. And a big view of the kitchen in the back where you can see the progress of the chef’s team cooking.
And they do some wonderful things back there in the kitchen: even with a three-dollar starter that’s essentially toast and cheese. It takes a joint like La Tavola to make that feel all fancy and special. The appetizer offers crisped toast supporting a sublime mixture of fresh melted cheese, herbs and natural garlic. That’s the Garlic Crostini (yes, $3). Fancier choices might include a sharing plate of nuts and olives or a baby kale salad, but it’d be hard to beat the goodness of melted cheese and bread.
Or, La Tavola has pizzas. The crust is deliciously distinct: thin and crispy with surprising inner layers of softness. and a yeasty beer-like flavor. You can score a classic Pepperoni ($10) version, lush with both cheese and meat. Or go for something artsy such as the Quattro Stagioni ($10) — it boasts little quadrants of artichokes, tomatoes, prosciutto and mushrooms.
Then there are entrees for the serious sit-down. The list isn’t terribly large, but it still takes lots of consideration to pick a prize.
And after all that careful consideration, a glance at the kitchen’s chalkboard reveals an additional slew of edible special offerings: pasta, seafood, all sorts of things.
From the main menu, Beef Ragu ($14) offers an excellent opportunity to sample the diversity of flavor that La Tavola’s kitchen can master. Often times, Italian joints can play one note well, La Tavola write big ‘ol culinary symphonies. Beef Ragu takes shreds of braised beef short ribs, teeny carrot bits and onions and slow-cooks them in red wine for an almost old-fashioned stew flavor.
Or, there’s Pasta Americano ($14): house made pasta topped with a tomato sauce made with house-made sausage. If in-house pasta-making is common in columbus, in-house sausage-making is not.
During the visit, there was something on the specials board that demanded attention: Chicken Cannelloni ($14) It’s pretty much a combination of all the best things in the world to eat: tender little bits of organic chicken, held together with bits of swiss chard in creamy ricotta. That’s wrapped up in a couple of fresh crepes, then topped with marinara and a thick, rich béchamel sauce. In future visits, it will be difficult to order any other option, ever.
La Tavola can be found at 1664 W. 1st Avenue in Grandview. Its hours of operation are Tuesdays through Thursdays from 5pm until 10pm. Fridays and Saturdays, it’s open until 11pm. It also hosts special off-menu Sunday Suppers from 4pm until 8pm.
For more info, visit www.facebook.com/latavolaonfirst.
Photos by Mollie Lyman of www.fornixphotography.com.