Bernadette la Roux
Here you will find authentic Italian food of the highest order made to traditional methods. Pasta, from the cannelloni tubes to the tagliolini is handmade and fresh. Eat like an Italian, working your way through the menu from the antipasti (don’t miss a plate of the zucchini fritti or courgette fries to share) through the primi (linguine pescatore tossed in a tomato-based seafood sauce is inspired) and on to the secondi (traditional veal saltimbocca alla roma is highly recommended) ending with dolci or gelato and an espresso. The veal dishes in particular are outstanding and come with various sauces from fresh lemon to foraged mushroom and are served with pasta (or not). The tagliolini ai funghi e tartufo with wild mushrooms, rocket and truffle oil is also a stand-out dish. Don’t expect lashings of rich cream here, the tagliolini is tossed in truffle oil with porcini mushrooms and fresh herbs then softened with a dash of pasta water allowing the mushrooms to take centre stage.
The wine list has been carefully considered showcasing both South African and Italian wines with excellent by-the-glass options. Italian varietals are affordable without sacrificing quality in the bottle. Starting the meal with a glass of prosecco is always a good idea to get into the spirit.
With dishes that are by no means easy to pronounce and a mid-week lunch rush that can get busy, staff have a good handle on things. The hand’s-on owner and an ever-changing menu keep waiters and kitchen crew on their toes.
Don’t expect a warm and cozy nonna’s kitchen; situated opposite the Kingsbury Hospital and with huge glass windows, the atmosphere is slightly lacking, but the food and busy tables more than make up for it. You’re not here for the view.
The open-kitchen counter displays seasonal items that can be a good clue as to what to order on the day.
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The word hearty springs to mind when describing this food: your belly will be full, and your heart happy. Kick off with an indulgent melanzane alla parmigiana. It’s gloriously – some would say gratuitously – cheesy, and should be shared if you intend on eating a main course. A zuppa ai frutti di mare is similarly generously portioned, but slightly lighter thanks to its broth-like texture. Grilled veal scallops are richly flavoured, and their glossy mushroom sauce perfect spread over fresh pasta – especially with a sprinkling of parmesan. The special rabbit braised with salsiccia, fresh herbs and tomato on wide ribbon pasta is boldly flavoured – perhaps a touch too salty for some. For dessert, the torta di cioccolato – a baked chocolate tart served with hazelnut gelato – is the answer to chocoholics prayers. It’s a squidgy, richly chocolate treat to finish you off for the evening.
A selection of Italian and French wines at mostly not astronomical prices (the cheapest is just R180) provides an opportunity to try out something a little different. Those after something more familiar will find the likes of AA Badenhorst, Vergelegen, Iona Vineyards and Uva Mira on the winelist. There’s also a cellar selection, Crystallum’s Mabalel pinot noir, Chamonix’s Troika, Newton Johnson Family’s Granum and Alheit Vineyards’ Cartology.
Staff are friendly and attentive – and politely amused by our attempts to eat a full three courses.
The style is from a time gone by, but the red walls and curtains, and white tablecloths are spotless, and the large dining area has a healthy buzz to it, even on chilly winter nights. Outdoor tables overlooking the library square make a pleasant option in summer.
The wine list also lists Platter stars – very helpful if big names don’t mean much to you.
Don’t expect any garden variety pizzas from this authentic Italian eatery in Claremont. A Tavola specialises in pastas, either served on their own or as the accompaniment to traditional cuts of meat, cooked and served with mouthwatering sauces. The pasta is freshly-made – as you would expect – and comes with a variety of the usual-suspect sauces. If they have them on special, the homemade meatballs are particularly recommended. You can order most pasta options as a (large) half-portion for starters and other starters include bruschetta, carpaccio and classic antipasti. But whatever you choose, make sure you add a portion of the fabulous lightly-battered, deep-fried zucchini, which is incredibly moreish and totally delicious.
Mains are substantial in size and there are usually good specials, like must-try Coniglio alla Ragu e Piselli (rabbit braised with salsiccia, peas and tomatoes) or you can settle for their signature Vitello ai Funghi e vino Bianco (veal escalopes in mushroom and white wine sauce). Portions are definitely on the big side and the food reaches your table piping hot and appetisingly decorated with black pepper and proper shavings of parmesan cheese.
This is a thoughtful selection with plenty of character and flair – whoever put this list together knows and appreciates something a little different and offbeat. The local choices are split into two, with most wines in the normal selection being fairly priced up to about R200, whilst the reserve selection ranges from around R350 upwards for some of SA’s finest wines. There are several options available by the 250 ml carafe, and they are at pains to point out that a gas preservations system is used to keep the open bottles fresh. The list is topped off with a small selection of around 10 Italian wines and a couple of French ones too.
The staff are great, friendly and chatty, greeting regulars, and knowledgeable about their product. What was particularly nice to see was that the smiling chef standing behind the counter in his open kitchen was also happy to chat and interact with guests, coming out to tables and calling orders, as well as cracking jokes across the pass. There are plenty of staff on the floor as well, so no need to ever wait for anything for any length of time.
If truth be told, it isn’t the most pre-possessing restaurant, being on the corner of a modern block building, and the owners have tried to add softness and warmth with lots of deep colour, immaculate drapes and well-chosen pictures. But the atmosphere is exactly what you want in a neighbourhood Italian restaurant: busy (even early on a mid-week evening), bustling, warm and cheery. Stacks of Italian foodie imports line the shelves, as well as lots of large-format Italian bottles of water and wine.
This is possibly the most authentic Italian eatery in the southern suburbs, and a sure bet for a great plate of pasta when the comfort-food craving hits.
Kate WilsonNot the greatest setting and the service can be patchy, but the food is very good and I like the fact that they do fewer things very well, i.e. there's no pizza! One of the better restaurants in the 'burbs. It's an easy choice to default to and the changing specials are particularly good. Recommended because it's the worthy sister of the much-loved Assaggi. Try the zucchini fries and pasta vongole. (July 2013)
Stunning as always last night. Never disappoints. Veal, steak, pasta - all good, authentic Italian and some of the most professional waitrons around.
A truly delicious flavour some meal. A Tavola has not disappointed yet.
Excellent on all aspects, service, ambience, food. A definite favourite.
The lasagna at A Tavola is simply the best - light and fluffy, instead of the usual stodge that can be found else where!
You can tell from the red, draping curtains, and the classical menu divisions (Antipasti, Insalate, Primi, Secondi, Dolce) that this place is not about trendy hipster tricks. The formula is simple, fresh ingredients, home-made old-school Italian dishes, old-fashioned service.
Happily, the food bears out the promise, every dish we've tried here has been perfect - traditional, tasty, perfectly prepared, beautifully and simply presented.
The menu is just extensive enough to keep everyone happy and just restrained enough that you can be sure everything is fresh and seasonal.
We've loved the melanzane and carpaccio starters; pastas, risottos and veal dishes; and we always mean to share the cafe affogato for dessert, but fight over it when it arrives. I especially love to be there later in the evening, after the main dinner-time rush is over, and the head chefs emerge from the kitchen to sit down at one of the tables for their own leisurely meal, stopping for the odd conversation with the diners.
A happy, homely haven of Italian deliciousness. Long may it prosper!
A few weeks ago I visited this restaurant which I had loved previously. Upon receiving my order of lasagna I found it had close to no mince involved. I asked the waitress to inform the chef of this occurrence and to tell him that I was sorely disappointed. I received no apology or explanation. Neither the manager nor the chef came to speak to me about this terrible meal. This appalling lack of respect and manners towards the customer is disgusting and I suggest the staff learn how to treat their customers. I will never go back and warn others of this lack of interest in their livelihood.
The food and service here is fabulous - one of our very favourite restaurants.
Food average, we were totally ignored by management during the hour we were there.