- 1220 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH, 45202
- Overall User Rating:
- (3 ratings)
- 5 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Kitchen closes two hours earlier.
- Official Web Site:
For weeks now, I've had to tell everyone who kept asking that I hadn't yet been to A Tavola, the new pizza restaurant in The Gateway Quarter. Though I always wait for a bit before a first visit, I felt a little lame. The soft opening drew a crowd and the place has been packed ever since, with occasionally long waits for tables.
A lot of attention for a new pizza joint, you think?
Maybe, but this is a pizza joint on Vine Street, the center of current development efforts in the neighborhood. It's a hot bed of newness and pride for people excited about revitalizing the central city.
Now that I have visited, I can say that the buzz has it right.
The mood: This newest new thing takes its inspiration from old traditions. The pizza is made in a wood-burning oven, the beautiful wood tables are handmade by one of the owners, the bacon is made in-house, and the cocktails are crafted, not just mixed. It exemplifies one of the best new food trends: old-fashioned artisanship.
The heart of the restaurant is a monster blue-tiled oven, which works on an ancient concept: A wood fire is built inside until the oven gets very hot. The wood is pushed aside and pizzas go in the same spot.
The food: The result is a thin crust, puffed up and a little thicker on the edges, the taste of fire embodied in a few burst, blackened bubbles in the crust and roasted edges on the toppings. It's thin but not crackery: you can fold a slice.
Toppings are imaginative and not overloaded, and there will be a new one each time you go, as the seasons and local produce change. I can imagine a crust a little more perfectly balanced between chewy and crisp, with flavor a little more developed. It must take a while to coax the full potential out of something as simple as a wood-burning oven.
But perhaps that's over thinking it: we fully enjoyed and admired a pizza topped with soppressata (a spicy salami) ($12) with peppers and tomato sauce, and an unusual vegetarian option with roasted cauliflower, salsa verde and fontina ($12). Note: You can get a nice, affordable meal here.
There are small plates, too. Any restaurant who's ever put the word bruschetta on their menu should be required to come order it ($4) here, to see what it's really about: good bread, crisp and toasty. They use local Blue Oven, the best bread on the face of the earth, with toppings such as creamy ricotta mixed with sweet local corn ($6). Another starter, the grilled asparagus salad with a fabulous lemony dressing ($7), subtly introduces the wood-fired theme. If you come in for a crafted cocktail or a glass of chilled rose, get the arancini ($6), deep-fried rice balls stuffed with cheese, served on a zig-zagged swoosh of bright-green salsa verde, or the sausage-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates ($6). (You might want to get two orders.)
Dessert shows off the brilliance of the Italian mind with affogato ($6), just espresso over vanilla gelato, but sublime. Grilling peaches ($6) is also a good idea, especially covered with lavender-scented whipped cream.