A Tavola, having just opened at 1220 Vine Street this past week, is the newest addition to the Over-the-Rhine restaurant community, joining other great establishments like the Senate, Lavomatic, and more. However, despite their recent opening, A Tavola and their Neapolitan style pizza have actually been on our radar for about 2 years now. It all started in the summer of 2009 at Take the Cake Bakery in Northside.
Over the course of that summer, the three intrepid young owners of A Tavola, Jared Wayne, Bill Draznik and Sam Ginocchio, ran a weekly pizza night out of the Northside bakery. Once a week, for a $10 entry fee, you could bring your own booze and the cooks would bring out pie after pie of fresh, delicious pizzas for everyone to taste. We even mentioned it in this article.
Fast forward to summer 2011, and A Tavola has its own location in a beautiful, refurbished space on Vine Street. The atmosphere is friendly and casual, making for a great place to meet old friends and new, but also has plenty of class and swagger to spare, fitting right in with the atmosphere that block of Vine has created for itself.
|The handmade bar from handpicked wood at A Tavola|
A Tavola’s secret weapon may just be its oven, a beautiful custom made piece built in Italy and shipped over just for this restaurant, weighing in at a slender 5,500 lbs. In the open cooking space, diners can watch as the oven heats to fantastically high temperatures and spits out wonderfully delicious tasting pizzas in under a minute. Yes, you read that right. Many a foodie in this town has been chomping at the bit over the past few months to see what this baby can do. And now we’ve finally got the chance. So what did I get?
|A Tavola's Beautiful Custom Built Oven|
|The "Ginger Beer Me"|
Well, walking up to the door, I could see it was already bustling with families, couples, and young and older folks alike. We were able to be seated after a short wait (A Tavola does not take reservations) and immediately studied up on the menu. My friend and I both opted to try the “Ginger Beer Me,” ($8) one of Ginocchio’s concoctions that features house-made ginger beer, fresh lime and your choice of rum, vodka, bourbon or tequila (I went with the bourbon). I found it to be a refreshing mix of flavors, and the ginger had plenty of kick to it. If you are a fan of that gingery bite flavor, you should absolutely try this out.
|broccoli, garlic and mozzarella pizza at A Tavola|
Again, our pizza was fairly simple in terms of ingredients, but I think that may be what made it so good. Each element of the pizza was given enough room to shine in its own right; the flavors didn’t have to compete at all. Perhaps best of all was the taste of the crust itself. I can best describe it as having that slight burnt/fiery taste that you can only get when baking on a certain type of surface. If you’ve ever had fresh pita baked on a stone oven anywhere in the Middle East, you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure there are other good analogies too, that’s just the first thing that I thought of when tasting it. And to be honest, I don’t know that I’ve encountered that particular taste anywhere in this country up to this point. Now I know where to go to get my fix. Yes, it really is THAT good.
We decided to skip dessert, although many of the items did sound tasty, such as the ricotta cheesecake with red wine and cherry reduction and candied orange ($7). Much of the rest of the menu is populated with A Tavola’s house-cured meats and sausages and although I don’t eat pig, I hear that they are also high quality.
I don’t want to jinx anything, but A Tavola seems to have a winning recipe on its hands. The atmosphere makes it a great place for anyone to wander in; the bar makes it a great place for people to stay, have a drink and converse, and the food makes it an even better place for people to keep coming back time after time. I wish them nothing but the best for the future and I only hope more quality places like this can find a home in Cincinnati. For information, check out A Tavola online at http://www.atavolapizza.com/.