Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Tavola Pizzeria - a real surprise in Cincinnati

When Cincinnati comes to mind, you don't quite think cultural vibe or hipster flair. But neighborhoods such as The Banks and Over the Rhine will make you think again. With its close proximity to Kentucky bluegrass culture, mid-west friendliness, and German immigrant population, Cincinnati has charm. I went there for the first time in Q4 2013 for work and scoped out a few of Cinci's best local restaurants. Of course there was a pizza joint on the list - A Tavola in Over the Rhine at 1220 Vine St.

I went to A Tavola with a few colleagues on what we thought was a quiet Tuesday night, A Tavola was buzzing with energy. They don't take reservations, but we arrived  around 6:30 and we're seated right away. The space was open yet inviting, wood topped tables closely placed, an open bar area towards the front, and a huge wood burning pizza oven nestled just in view of the dining area. The menus star is obviously pizza, but they have a nice selection of antipasti, salads, and sliders. At $10 to $16 per pie the cost is on par with SF but the portion sizes are slightly larger. We ordered family style - Roasted Cauliflower, Margherita Pizza, Artichoke Pizza, and Peach & Rhubarb Streusel with Salted Caramel Gelato. All were very tasty with my favorites being the artichoke pie and peach streusel.

Roasted Cauliflower - cauliflower and lemon vinaigrette. The dish came out with piping hot with the over roasted cauliflower lightly drizzled with lemon vinaigrette. Each floret was a bite-size portion and the overall serving was enough to feed 3 as an antipasti dish. The dish was a bit bitter and acidic, but not overpowering. The cauliflower itself had a nice charred/smoky flavor and was slightly al dente.

Margherita Pizza - tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil. This was a safe choice given the other eclectic pies on the menu. The crust was chewier than I prefer with a few char marks from the wood oven. The sauce was a hint sweet from the san marzano tomatoes, the home made mozzarella was a hint salty - a good balance but nothing that I hadn't tasted before at many SF establishments. Lets just say that we ate the entire pie, but in the futures would opt for a more unique choice.

Artichoke Pizza - tomato sauce, pesto, artichokes, mozzarella, and goats cheese. This was by far the best dish of the evening. On the surface the combination of artichokes and goats cheese did not sound appealing, but the waitress indicated that this was one of restaurant's best sellers. The pizza was perfectly cooked with and generous charring along the crust. The combination of mozzarella and goats cheese provided a sweet and salty balanced flavor. The artichokes were cut small and before being added to the pie. They were fresh and retained a nice crunch. The pesto seemed out of place and it's taste really didn't come through, but I'm nitpicking at this point. I would order this again.

Pear and Rhubarb Streusel - baked pear and rhubarb with cinnamon crumble and salted caramel gelato. This dessert definitely hit the spot with the warm naturally sweet streusel and the cold creamy salted caramel gelato. The gelato itself was soft serve, a nice touch since it was easy to scoop and share. I have become a bit fan of salty sweet combo desserts and A Tavola does it right. The streusel tasted more peach than rhubarb, but none the less the fruit was very ripe and tasty. The serving size was about right for three to share and I would definitely order this dish again.

All is all A Tavola did not disappoint. A hipster vibe, great friendly service, and memorable pizza makes this place a must on your list in Cincinnati. I give a solid 7.5 out of 10. See for yourself.