If you’re looking for some authentic Italian just a stone’s throw away from the Cross, look no further than A Tavola. This polished little gem in Darlinghurst ticks a lot of boxes on my checklist, from its bare bones menu (most of the menu consists of ever changing blackboard specials) to the friendly, patient wait staff who explain the dishes to you (helpful when most of it is in Italian) and finally, the understated decor, with touches of modernity like the trendy copper hanging lights and a huge, luxe marble table downstairs.
Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs on the night we visited and we ambitiously ordered 3 pasta dishes to share between 2 girls (my friend insisted the servings were not that big). The first pasta we had was one of the blackboard specials – a lovely, light Tagliatelle con Granchio featuring ribbons of pasta tossed with shredded Queensland spanner crab, cherry tomatoes and parsley. This flavoursome pasta was a great way to start off the meal and get our appetites going. My friend was right about the portion sizes for the dishes, as this particular pasta wasn’t a particularly large serving.
Tagliatelle con Granchio, $33
Our next dish was the Bucatini all’Amatriciana which is on their usual menu – this dish looks deceptively simple, but really packs a punch as the rich tomato sauce is thickened with slivers of pork belly and pork cheek. The first few mouthfuls of the satisfying thick, chewy bucatini were delicious, but after a while the intense flavours of the sauce got to me and I couldn’t finish my half of the pasta.
Bucatini all’Amatriciana, $24
Our final pasta was the Pappardelle al Ragu, which was another one of the blackboard specials and featured silky smooth sheets of pappardelle, smothered with a hearty, comforting beef ragu which just fell apart on our forks and melted in our mouths. We ended up finishing this dish despite getting way too full – couldn’t let such a wonderful dish go to waste!
Pappardelle al Ragu, $34
We still had room for dessert as my friend highly recommended we share a Cremino and I wasn’t disappointed at all – it’s served in an espresso cup and looks just like a mini cappuccino with froth, but dig your spoon in right to the bottom and you’ll find that the “froth” is actually a delightfully airy meringue which has been lightly burnt on top, layered on some honeycomb, on a decadent chocolate mousse. Have all the layers in one go and you’ll go straight to dessert heaven. The Cremino reminded me of the famous “Coffee and Doughnuts” dessert at Per Se, one of the top fine dining restaurants in New York, which I tried on my trip a couple of years back and also features a cup of cappuccino semifreddo topped off in foam so that it looks just like a mini coffee (see photo below for reference).
“Coffee and Doughnuts” – Per Se NYC
The prices are a little high at A Tavola for some of the more premium pastas on the menu considering the serving sizes, but with the nice ambience and handmade pastas used in their dishes, it’s worth a treat once in a while. I know where I’ll be heading back to get my next pasta fix when the cravings hit.