A Tavola (meaning “to the table”) is inspired by the childhood memories of Head Chef and Owner Eugenio Maiale whilst playing in his Adelaide home backyard as he waited for the dinner bell to chime “a tavola”.
It’s a ritual for his mother to make daily pasta that went into simple, honest and traditional style dishes. She passed this knowledge to her young son who would further develop his cooking technique during childhood visits to Italy. He watched relatives prepare all kinds of pasta from gnocchi to pappardelle on a long wooden table in the kitchen.
This childhood inspiration has transcended upon his two restaurants in Darlinghurst and the newly opened one in Bondi. He has done this by creating a dining space that revolves around a ten-metre long communal table made from Indian marble (Cover image).
The dark amber hued table becomes an extension of the kitchen during the day where chefs knead, mix and roll dough into foccacia breads and pastas from fresh produce. The result is seasonal fresh dishes that star on the blackboard the very same evening.
Mysaucepan and I are at the brand new Bondi restaurant this Sunday evening at seven and the dining room is already in full throttle.
The restaurant seems to be a hit with locals and young families where kids slurp up pasta like fish taking to water.
At A Tavola, it pays to understand some basic written Italian because the menu is full of it.
Foccacia bread scented with chilli and rosemary olive oil is fresh as we contemplate the menu.
The menu is enticing with fresh orecchiette, pappardelle, tagliolini and triangoli made from the “best free range eggs and caputo flour.” These fresh pastas are worked into sauces that showcase simple and honest Italian cooking.
We look around and it is obvious diners come here for fresh pasta. Twirling and slurping ribbons of pappardelle and tagliatelle seems to be the order of the day.
“This is definitely not a pizza joint like the last one we went to” I tell Mysaucepan.
“There aren’t any pizza here even if you wanted and don’t tell me you want Domino’s after this” she warns.
A waitress comes over and passionately explains the specials in her intriguing Italian accent. It sounds delicious and the choice is made all the more difficult with blackboard specials on the wall.
I love Italian food and why wouldn’t you love cosmopolitan Sydney with such a vibrant food culture that showcases some of the best Italian cuisine in the world.
A granchio is crab meat in a pool of cheese and fresh herbs that is neither too light nor heavy.
We fork into the sweet crab meat and creamy strands of melted cheese. The cheese flavours are delicate and milky without being overpowering.
My pappardelle has tender chunks of wagyu beef shin in a rich, beefy sauce with the added zing of horseradish.
The waiter asks if I would like fresh parmesan. I told her to not hold back and she obliges.
The pappardelle is al dente as I would expect but this texture is rather unforgettable even as I write this blog post. The freshness is evident on the first bite and this kind of hand-made egg pasta relegates all others into a distant second.
But perhaps I am spoiled by my own home-style beef ragu packed with flavours of star anise, cinnamon and cloves, I found this ragu a little bland. The parmesan and pasta saved the day for me but perhaps I should have requested for fresh chillies too.
Mysaucepan‘s Tagliatelle al nero di seppia con polipo e bottarga is nothing short of what I expected. What looks deceptively similar to cocktail Frankfurters are soft, yet slight chewy chunks of polipo (octopus) tentacles.
This whole dish reeks of seafood flavours made salty and flavoursome by the pungent bottarga (dried Italian fish roe). Cherry tomatoes and basil are subtle in balancing and restraining this hot-blooded Italian seafood number.
If you like seafood, this dish brings flavours of the sea right to your nose and palate.
Fresh pappardelle hangs outside the kitchen and bowls of parmesan cheese sit at one end of this long communal table. I like this image because it is so rich in Italian food culture.
It home-style Italian in a stylish space and I can sure get used to it.
So dear readers, what is your favourite Italian pasta and do you prefer a tradition or a modern style of pasta?
Shop 2, 69 – 71 Hall street, Bondi
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9310 1246
Opening hours: Dinner 7 days from 5.30pm to 10.30pm. Lunch Saturday – Sunday 12pm – 3pm