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A Tavola 2011-06-04

by foodbitch 4. June 2011 19:33

Humans have been wasting time with flap-flight for millennia. But there is nothing flappy that would ever fly a human to say nothing of a jumbo-jet. And, for about the same millennia, we’ve been trying to scale great Italian food outside of the household cooking it. We can’t. And we shouldn’t. Exhibit A: A Tavola.

I like the fact that none of you have ever heard about this place. Luckily, no one reads past the Facebook “preview” paragraph. A Tavola, which means “to the table” in Urdu (I think) has survived in an unassuming neighborhood since 1995. That’s like a whole person who can drive. Compare that to the countless fizzles of Hubbard Street that can’t even clear the language phase of adolescence. Eat there and you’ll know why. And then go eat at A Tavola.

It’s so rare to find inspiring Italian. Rarer still to find it in Chicago. Yes: inspiring. Lots of chefs are inspired. But so few send you marching home wondering “How’d they do that?” Chicagoans have big shoulders, big appetites and huge and growing waistlines. We want PAAAAAAsta. TONS of it. Lasagna squares bigger than a Mac Mini and raviolis stuffed thicker than the alderman’s “bonus” envelope. If that is indeed what you want then go to Maggiano’s or Buca’s. If your expense account permits, go to Gene & Georgetti’s and eat all the gristle-flavored cow you can. Or better yet: get bent. I too believe in eating until exhaustion but in doing so at proper venues. Like Portillo’s.

At A Tavola we ordered all of the specials and absolutely loved them all. The sliced mushrooms were outstanding. Most places deal with the fungus’ default dirt flavor through salt or sauce castration. Not here. Their shrooms were significantly smaller than the dinner plates passed off elsewhere as portabella. They needed no disguise to know how flavorful they were even though the sauce was a lovely complement.  The gnocchi about which others rave was good. But not THAT good. Instead, try the Pasta Bolognese. Truly excellent.  The meaty Bolognese stood out. It reminded me of Tocco’s in that uncanny way. I wonder if the Prime Minister stole the recipe from A Tavola. But as with other statesmen, Bruno is impervious to questions of his past. The world will never know.

The road not taken for the evening was the sliced leg of lamb which was a special. I hope it is again. But being a polite diner (this evening) not long I stood and looked down the menu as long as I could until they were ready to toss me in the undergrowth. I ordered Short Rib and having perhaps the better claim for it was probably grass-fed and wanted wear. ‘Twas a house specialty. I am telling this with a sigh, almost exactly one week hence. That two meals screamed to me and I, took the one more eaten by. Specialty= all the time; special=never before. And two letters make all the difference.

Food, wine, service – all excellent. Even the pre-wine martini was made my way. “We have Kettle One; is that OK?” Is that OK??? Huh. Chef Bocik, Madame Server: your restaurant is a treasure and you just said Shibboleth.

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FB is the CTO of an entertainment company and, these days, writes much more in prose than he ever wrote in code. Which is a good thing. Because people expect quality from code. Meal me:

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