Special Note: This is Scott's first blog post! He said he needs to pick up my slack :) -Renee
Recently, we made our second excursion to La Tavola Ristorante, located in Town plot, Waterbury's Italian enclave. La Tavola's menu is best characterized as a chic take on upscale Italian fair. The stars of the menu are the fine appetizers, which were both creative and elegant. We had the cured Italian meats, which were delectable and perfectly complimented by Mostardo fruits, and the antipasto, which was impressive in its own right, featuring tomato, pea, and prosciutto risotto balls, asparagus, soft onion, and prosciutto frittata, buffalo mozzarella and fire roasted sweet peppers, and Roman marinated artichokes. In fact, we were tempted to skip the entrees entirely and stick to apps, they were that good. As for the entrees, they were less imaginative than the appetizers but were well executed. The NY strip was flavorful and cooked exactly as ordered and was accompanied by smooth and creamy mashed potatoes and garlic spinach. The vodka sauce that came with the penne alla vodka was not the best we've had, but the dish was satisfying. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the shrimp was cooked just right as well. It was supposed to contain prosciutto, but it's presence in the dish was scarce.
To be frank, the service the first time we ate at La Tavola was horrendous. We waited at the door for the host for several minutes, all the while making eye contact with several servers that continually ignored us. Eventually one member of our party ventured into the restaurant in search of the host, upon which we found him to be unwelcoming and very short with us when we asked about table availability. He told us we could wait at the bar while he checked on what was available, but after an hour of waiting for an answer from the host, we decided to order appetizers at the bar. The bartender was rude and condescending, and seemed almost annoyed that he actually had to serve drinks and take orders, and took it out on the customers. The service was much more amenable the second time around. Our waitress was knowledgeable and friendly, yet lacked the annoying insincere pep that is ubiquitous at chain restaurants and the up tight precociousness of the upscale ones.
In all, La Tavola offers a refreshingly modern and stylish interpretation of traditional Italian cuisine that stands out from rest of the Waterbury's saturated backdrop of Italian eateries. This comes through more successfully in the food than in the decor, which is more of a clash these two vibes than a fusion. The jury's still out on the service, but you will get a interesting and delicious meal at a reasonable price, that may leave you dozing off into satiated sleep on your couch when paired with a bottle of wine.
4 things Scott liked:
1. Creativity of the appetizers
3. Good steak
4. Wine (Napa Ridge Cabernet) was excellent
3 things Renee liked:
1. The Mostardo fruits of the cured meat platter was the most successful fruit compote/cured meat combo I have ever tried, and Scott and I are practically experts in cured meats.
2. Our waitress (Jacqueline?) was fabulous. We really thought the service was stinky the first time we went, and we heard lots of "bad service" reviews from friends and neighbors, but she really made us feel welcome and also did not make us feel bad for being totally disgusting gluttonous pigs. She renewed our faith in a restaurant that we previously intended to boycott for stinky stuck up service.
3. I like being presented with olives, bread, and garlicky bean paste as soon as I sit down. It makes me happy.
3 things we didn't like:
1. (Renee): The walls in the bar section are absolutely atrocious. I think they were going for an old Italian "stucco" like look, but it clashed so horribly with the sleek, modern reds of the quasi Asian-fusion design of the rest of the bar room. Also where the wall met with the black ceiling, yuck. Scott thinks I am overreacting, and I definitely am, but I just really don't understand the look the restaurant is going for.
2. (Scott): The Jekyll and Hyde Service switch. We heard lots of really bad things (and experienced some) regarding the service, and this past time was phenomenal. Hopefully it stays that way.
3. (Renee & Scott): They still have a Fall menu, even in the middle of winter. They let us know that some of the things (like pumpkiny desserts) were no longer available, but you would think that in their first winter season they would follow through and update to a winter menu.
Will we go back?
Yes, for several reasons, but largely because the food is the closest thing we can get to gourmet around here (literally, we could walk there in 5 minutes). But next time, I think we will probably order a bottle of the house red Cabernet and a bunch of appetizers, they were really the star of the show. They are a much better value (both in price and taste) than the entrees.
La Tavola Ristorante
702 Highland Ave
Waterbury, CT 06708
(203) 755-2211 (call for reservations)