Update: As of the end of February 2009, this restaurant is now closed.
Yesterday was our 11th wedding anniversary, and my husband and I hemmed and hawed all week about where we would eat last night. We threw around name after name after name (The Refectory for their full menu? Latitude 41? Alana’s? Rosendale’s? Handke’s? M? L’Antibes?). All we knew is that we wanted it to be something we hadn’t experienced before, and something that would be memorable. Somewhere along the way, we settled on Trattoria La Tavola in Dublin, and made reservations for early last night.
It was fairly easy to find, between Bethel Rd and 161 on Riverside Drive. The funny thing is that I’ve driven by it hundreds of times and never even known it was there. They might actually benefit by more visible signage – the only reason I did find it was that I was actively looking for it.
They seated us next to a window with a lovely view of the Scioto River. It was especially striking since the leaves are still changing colors, providing a beautiful backdrop to a romantic evening. The atmosphere in the place was a bit less than romantic, though – but I blame part of that on the hour at which we ate – not only was it still bright bright outside (and this was on purpose, folks – I wanted to get good pictures), but it was right in the middle of happy hour, and the people at the bar were a bit boisterous, to say the least.
Bread service was adequate, with a dense, soft white bread served with what seemed to be olive oil infused with the flavor of sun dried tomatoes.
I settled in with a Taleatini and perused the menu. Quite a few items of the seasonal tapas menu (which rotates every Friday) appealed to us, so for our appetizers, we started there.
One of the tapas we ordered was the Canaderli allo Pancetta en Brodo ($6), which is described as “pancetta and bread dumplings cooked in chicken stock, garnished with Parmigiano reggiano and olive oil”. These reminded me of good old fashioned diner chicken and dumplings, if nothing else. The difference being that diner chicken and dumplings go for $6 for an entree sized bowl. But as an appetizer, the portion size was just enough.
The other dish we ordered was Butternut Squash Bruschetta ($6), “house made bread toasted, topped with a puree of butternut squash, Parmigiano reggiano, herbs, and fall spices with Prosciutto di Parma and melted gouda”. We felt that although the overall flavor of this was good, the saltiness of the cheeses and Prosciutto totally overwhelmed the delicate sweetness of the squash, and turned what should have been the front runner in flavor to merely a supporting player.
My husband was in the mood for soup, so he ordered their special soup of the day, the Zuppa ($5), described as “borlotti beans simmered in roasted pork stock with onions, carrots, celery, and garlic topped with olive oil and Parmigiano reggiano. This dish was very rustic, very simple and straightforward. Again, although good, it lacked bulk and character. It seemed to be missing something.
On to the entrees. My husband opted for half orders of two different dishes. His first entree, the Papparadelle ($9 for half order), served with “a pheasant ragu of onion, carrot, wild mushrooms, golden raisins, garlic, sage and cream topped with parmigiano reggiano” suited his taste buds much more than mine. He didn’t enjoy it at first, but said it grew on him with each consecutive bite. I, on the other hand, felt there was too much going on in the dish, and although I like mushrooms, felt overwhelmed by the presence of them in this dish. If you like mushrooms, however, this dish is for you.
His second entree, the Roasted Veal Agnolotti ($12 for a half order), described as “homemade egg pasta stuffed with slow roasted all natural veal shoulder, Oakvale gouda cheese, and spinach in a prosciutto, butter and Parmigiano reggiano sauce” was easily the best dish of the night. Flavorful, full of depth and contrasting textures, with the pasta cooked perfectly al dente, it was a joy to eat and it is a dish that we would happily make a return trip for.
I wasn’t quite as enamoured with my full order of Strozzapreti alla Sugo di Carne ($18 for a full order). Sugo di Carne is one of my favorite dishes, but their version fell short of my expectations for a few reasons – first, the pasta was a tad overcooked, and this is coming from someone who prefers most of her pasta to be a bit further south of al dente. In other words, if I say it’s overcooked, it’s to the point of mushy for others. Second, when I’ve had sugo di carne before, it’s been cubes of short rib – this was shredded. Third, in other versions I’ve had, wine has played as much of a part in the recipe as the tomatoes – this was tomato heavy, and the balance of wine to tomato was a bit off, as were the seasonings. All of these put together left me feeling a bit limp, so to speak. And the lack of texture between the pasta and the meat made me feel like the entire dish was flat and uninspiring. And it’s a shame, too – as I heard that their short rib dish wasn’t to be missed. I guess I just got it on an off night for the chef. Perhaps I’ll try a half order on my next visit just to see if it isn’t a one-time fluke.
We ended the meal with a shared dessert, their Flourless Chocolate Torte ($4.50 for a small slice). Dark, dense and rich, the flavor was a bit flat – it was missing something. Cayenne or salt, perhaps? I don’t know exactly what, but the chocolate flavor was very muted, and neither one of us enjoyed it very much – maybe it just lacked enough sweetness.
Overall, Trattoria La Tavola shows promise, and it seems to be a popular spot. The experience was great – service was attentive and quick, atmosphere (at least in our corner of the dining room) was fine except for the rowdy bar patrons, but the food fell short in flavor on quite a few dishes. Good could be elevated to great with a few minor adjustments in seasoning and technical execution. We’re willing to give it another shot. I do appreciate that they cook seasonally and use local ingredients. That’s always a plus in my book. I think I’m just disappointed that the food didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had built up given the menu descriptions.
If you’d like to go: Trattoria La Tavola, 6125 Riverside Dr, Dublin, OH 614.760.8700