Robin Locker Lacey back with my third helping of a fab foodie experience for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. This time at A Tavola in New Paltz. Being a lover of Italian food, especially authentic Italian food, I had heard such good things about A Tavola, and was very excited about finally getting to dine there. And it didn’t disappoint.
As we entered, we were greeted warmly and taken upstairs to the dining room on the second floor. The room was arranged with a hodge podge of well-worn wooden tables and chairs, with candles and large baskets of bread scattered about. Instantly, I was in a tiny trattoria in Italy. The very charming and rustic atmosphere set the mood for what was to come. The dim lighting made it tough for taking good food photos, but wonderful for ambiance.
Freshly-baked bread, still piping hot from the oven, with a delicate crust dusted with salt was brought to the table along with olive oil which tasted of fresh green grass, poured at the table for dipping.
We perused both the regular menu and the Restaurant Week menu, and were happy to see a very simple selection of real Italian food, sans the Chicken Parmesan and Fettuccine Alfredo. Their main menu also boasts half-portions of selected pasta, which I adore, because sometimes that’s all you need.
While enjoying our glasses of Italian wine, mine a red Valpolicella Ripasso and my husband’s, a white Vermentino, we ordered from the HVRW menu.
Our first courses arrived. First, a mountain of mussels arrived in a light tomato and wine broth, with thin slices of garlic. The flavor was fabulous and the mussels were plump and perfectly cooked. In fact, I remarked they were some of the meatiest mussels I had ever eaten.
Our attentive and friendly waitress was kind enough to bring a soup spoon and some more bread to sop up that glorious tomato broth so it wouldn’t go to waste.
While the kale salad with polenta Parmesan croutons was certainly fresh and delicious, we both prefer our kale to be sauteed a bit more or completely wilted in a soup. Again, just a personal preference.
We both chose pasta for our main course, which was served very simply in deep white bowls. Our server offered freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper at the table, which we both happily accepted.
My husband’s mac n’ truffle pasta was even more intoxicating than the wine; You could actually smell the earthy goodness as it was being brought to the table. It was creamy and decadent, without being heavy or gloppy, like your typical macaroni and cheese made with some chemically laden cheese product. This one had a mix of taleggio and fontina cheeses and an obscene amount of sliced black truffle tossed into the dish. It was grown-up mac and cheese, teetering on the edge of pornographic. Lusty, heady and sinful, he passionately devoured every last bite!
I can never resist fresh house made pasta and my pappardelle bolognese rivaled some of the best I’ve had in Italy. Though not as sexy as the former dish, my pasta, which was as wide as lasagne noodles, was perfectly cooked. The rich meaty sauce, which is braised for seven hours, was tucked into the folds of pasta and enhanced it, without overpowering it. I ended up taking half home because I needed room for dessert. I made short work of the leftovers the next day.
Since there were only two dessert selections on the HVRW menu, and we like to share, it made sense to order one of each.
I chose the olive oil cake with blood orange sorbetto, which was light, moist and had a hint of the olive oil flavor. The blood orange sorbetto, which was fresh and sweet, complimented the cake nicely. In fact, as the sorbet melted it soaked into the cake, infusing it with orange flavor. It was a very simple, but delicious dessert.
The chocolate and vanilla semifreddo, was a slice of what appeared to be ice-cream cake. But instead, it had a light, creamy texture, a cross between a frozen custard and a mousse. It was topped off with amaretti cookie crumbles and a cannelle of fresh whipped cream. Heavenly.
The waitstaff managed to be very efficient, polite and attentive without overbearing and that can be hard to accomplish with a packed house, which it most certainly was. I also love the fact that A Tavola proudly supports local farmers and uses many local ingredients when possible.
This was another stand out meal and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening here. Whenever I’m craving a slice of authentic Italian food in a rustic setting, it’s here I’ll return. Much less expensive than a plane ticket to Italy and just as good as any trattoria there. I hope they don’t tire of seeing me because I plan to become a regular at A Tavola.