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With its raw-cement walls and ultralate hours, entrees for two and crowd of bargoers waiting for seats, Tavolata is the party place in party town. Those willing to dive in to the experience will find that Tavolata delivers much of what it promises: honest, well-prepared Italian food; a reasonable check; and good odds of chatting up whomever the host seats next to you at the 30-person communal table. Chef Ethan Stowell's handmade pastas are supple and golden, soaking up flavor from the sauce but still leaving you something to chew on. The octopus salad is fantastic, as is his grilled fish, seasoned only with lemon and smoke, perfectly Italian in its minimalism.
Ah, a romantic evening out with your lover of all things deathly. A little Marilyn Manson on the stereo as you dress, an extra tug on your corset strings for a paler, more emaciated appeal. Perhaps you can drain off a vial of your blood, mixed with Spanish fly, to whet your beloved's appetite. Then, long after nightfall (but before midnight, when the kitchen closes), it's off to Tavolàta for strozzapreti, whose name translates as "choke the priest." Cookbook author Lidia Bastianich writes that this rolled-up, ropy pasta, which originated in Emilia-Romagna, is so rich that a priest once choked on it. Other food historians suggest that after six centuries of papal rule, Romagna peasants were simply registering a wee bit of resentment toward their clerical masters. Whether or not it has ever killed a man of God, Matt Fortner, Tavolata's chef de cuisine, tosses the chewy, twisty priestchoker with richly braised baby sheep, large oregano leaves, and mounds of shaved Parmesan. Don't eat it too fast! Then retire to your lair for red velvet cake and Mansinthe, Manson's personally branded absinthe. —Jonathan Kauffman
Named for its 30' x 3' giant table made from the cross section of an entire fir tree, Tavolata is local favorite Ethan Stowell's second and most popular spot. Located in the trendy and always happening Bell Town neighborhood, its is open every day from 5pm-Midnite. They only take reservations for parties of 6 or more so come early with your date and relax with the wine list. The menu revolves around classic Italian dishes. The focus is obvious: the incredible handmade pastas, made fresh minutes after ordering. Look for large roasts, chops, and steaks to go with the rich red wine. Do not expect a lot of green things on the menu. Everything is made to share. Order up a few and just pass em around.
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