LA TAVOLA TRATTORIA ~ upscale casual ****
992 Virginia Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30306
Mon – Thurs 5:30 – 11 p.m.
Fri – Sat 5:30 – midnight
Sun 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.; 5:30 – 10 p.m.
La Tavola is a charming Italian eatery tucked away at the intersection of Virginia and North Highland Avenues. Operated by Fifth Group Restaurants (partners Steve Simon, Robert Kukler and Kris Reinhard), the establishment opened in May 1999. A romantic dining scene with a great wine list, La Tavola (Italian for “the table”) stays crowded.
Executive chef Timothy Magee presents a fairly simplistic, but delightful, Italian spread. Antipasti include a traditional Caesar or mixed greens salad, mussels steamed in vermouth, tomatoes, parsley and oregano, or a platter of assorted meats, cheeses and olives. Pastas range from baked manicotti filled with veal, spinach and mozzarella to linguine with Manila clams in white wine or red sauce, garlic, chili flakes and fresh herbs.
For entrees, choose from grilled salmon with braised crimson lentils, Brussel sprouts and pancetta in a veal jus or balsamic roasted chicken with roasted potatoes, artichokes and mushrooms. Sunday brunch adds selections such as a three-egg omelet, French toast or vegetarian poached eggs over toasted focaccia.
FOOD QUALITY ****
Everything is fresh and crisp, from the salads to the salmon.
FOOD PRESENTATION ***1/2
Arrangements are simple and unassuming on classic white china. Bread arrives in a black wicker basket.
The ambiance is neighborhood cozy. The place is painted a deep, warm red, accented with mirrors, suspended lighting and wood floors. Black tables and chairs with white tablecloths are squeezed alongside a small bar and a few booths, creating an intimate setting. Additional seating is available on the patio out back. A jazzy background beat provides a base for the chatter.
The dining area and bar are in order, but I found the restroom slightly unkempt, with a few paper towels reaching the floor and an unimaginative black trash bag liner in clear view.
Service is friendly and personable. I wanted to add sausage to the risotto of the day, and they were happy to accommodate.
I suggest the grilled beef tenderloin filet with sautéed spinach, garlic mashed potatoes and veal jus; It pairs nicely with the Bernard Griffin cabernet. The mixed greens with tomato, celery and balsamic vinaigrette provide a delicious start. The risotto of the day is always a worthy choice. On my last visit, it was prepared with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.
OVERALL RATING ****
Arrive early for a good table, as cozy can quickly become cramped if seated too close to the front entrance or the kitchen. Even so, La Tavola is a sweet, romantic spot with pleasant, dependable service and delicious food.