Monday Night Supper, a meal unlikely to be realised in Sydney unless it involves chicken salt (oh yeah) and palm oil but thankfully after an intimate half hour with Google and a phone call later we dodged the potential heart attack and had managed to lock in a rendezvous at A Tavola.
Sonia and I arrived well after 9, stepping inside we peeled off our outer layers and admired the intimate setting. A Tavola is Italian for ‘to the table’ and the iconic 10 metre long communal table stretched the length of the front room with intricate veins of the Indian marble forming a meandering amber landscape towards the drying curtain of pasta draping the kitchen window. Two large blackboards dominate the northern wall with the daily specials (utilising chef Eugenio Maiale’s fresh pasta) scrawled in Italian. A curt paper menu hidden within our napkins listed the perennials which averaged $10 cheaper by using dried pasta instead.
Taking our spots opposite a young couple we ordered our wines and continued to reflect upon Tran Anh Hung’s cinematic translation of Norwegian wood, musing over the themes of escape, nostalgia and loss (and who was the hottest) as well as expressing reverence for cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin’s (of ‘In the Mood for Love’ fame) masterful compositions.
Complimentary bread with chilli infused olive oil
The complimentary bread arrived: two fingers of home-made focaccia sprinkled with fennel and rosemary was accompanied by a small dish of chilli infused olive oil.
Polipo con patate e olive (Octopus with potatoes and olives) $20
Knowing the servings can err on the large side we opted to share everything and all the dishes came out at once. First was the octopus, the beautifully cooked tentacle nested within a garden of green beans, watercress, kipfler potato and olives.
Triangoli con ripieno di anatra (Triangle ravioli stuffed with duck) $34
All of a sudden the room was awash with an unassailable nutty aroma and then we spotted our waiter floating towards us with a warm plate of the ravioli. Six large poppy freckled triangles stuffed with tender shreds of duck wallowed in a pool of burnt butter, sage and slivers of mustard fruit. The elements combined to form a nuanced mouthful of pasta, gamey meat and at times a surprising murmur of sweetness.
Swiss brown mushrooms, green peas, mint, ricotta salata $16
Last was our side of juicy mushrooms and peas, a simple combination enhanced by the shavings of salty ricotta and whispers of mint.
Before we knew it our plates were spotless. Having read that the desserts here weren’t as rave worthy as the pasta, I decided to have ice cream at Gelato Messina across the road instead. As we prepared to leave the woman across from us loudly declared her dessert the best she’s had in her entire life. Suddenly hit by a pang of regret I started wondering if we made the right choice, but A Tavola has endured the ebbs and flows of the Sydney dining scene for half a decade and with such refined Abruzzese fare we’re sure to have ample opportunities to return to the table.
A warm interior and a table laden with basins of beans and pots of parmesan serve as a homely-chic backdrop to pastas inspired by Maiale’s childhood. We were intrigued by the sound of the gnocchi and seared hare with risotto and will be back to try more of the elegant fresh pasta. Although the special dishes do verge a touch on the exxy side, the servings are fair and it’s well worth at least an initial visit to see for yourself what the fuss is all about.
a. 348 Victoria Street Darlinghurst
t. 9331 7871