Restaurant Revisit: La Tavola Trattoria

Quick Info: La Tavola Trattoria is an Italian restaurant on Hertel Ave that has been open since the summer of 2013. Their menu features a variety of small plates, entrees and wood fire pizza. Since our first visit in July of 2013, the restaurant has added a full bar (including wine, beer and cocktails) and has expanded their dining room.

Our Meal: A few weeks ago, we visited La Tavola for this first time since our original visit in July 2013. It was a last minute decision, but when we arrived to the restaurant on a Friday evening without a reservation we were able to grab a seat inside the restaurant without a problem (a patio seat would have required a 30/40 minute wait). On our first visit we sat outside on the patio, so we can’t comment on how far along the dining room has come in two years but it does look great. Their wood fire oven is in view of the bar and the second level dining room offers a nice view of the bar and kitchen from above. We also noticed the menus were sharply designed, a small detail but something appreciated more and more these days.

Menus (La Tavola)

We started our meal off with a couple of small plates. We ordered the Roasted Brussel Sprouts ($7), House Meatballs ($7) and their Arancini special that was filled with pork shoulder. All three arrived around the same time to the table. The portions for each dish were incredible. Even though they were advertised as “small plates”, there was nothing small about them. The meatballs (2) were huge and covered in a sweet red sauce with a side of pesto ricotta. For as large as the meatballs were, they were very tender. The sauce was nice and sweet and the ricotta definitely added some extra kick but the meatball itself was sadly lacking in any flavor at all. We barely ate half of one before giving up. The roasted brussel sprouts dish had a really good amount of char and paired with pancetta and balsamic reduction, it was very savory and salty. Alli actually disliked the goat cheese and thought the flavors did not compliment each other at all. I didn’t mind and thought it added a bit nice tart kick to the salty sprouts.

The arancini balls were also gigantic. Each of the two balls were literally packed with pulled pork shoulder and had a thin crispy outer shell of fried rice. Normally, we aren’t the type to complain about too much pork but these were literally overflowing and almost overwhelming. The pork itself, like the meatballs, was lacking in a lot of flavor. There was a thin layer of sweet sauce underneath the arancini that didn’t really have a distinct taste except for a hint of what seemed like sweet BBQ sauce.The main course was a Margherita pizza, which was really the main reason why we chose La Tavola in the first place. After looking back at pictures of that first pizza we had, this looked similar but was sadly quite disappointing. The cheese was spongy and bland and the crust was over cooked and rock hard. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a crispy thin crust, but this was hard to eat. We almost considered sending it back.

Margherita (La Tavola)

Arancini (La Tavola)

Summary: We were excited to revisit La Tavola and see what progress they’ve made in the two years since our last visit. It’s good to see they’ve expanded the dining room and the cocktail menu looked very interesting, but we had some pretty big misses with the food. Sure, the portions were gigantic but each dish had a particular quirk that we didn’t enjoy. The pizza was the biggest disappointment and much different than what we had on our last visit. We know several folks who really enjoy dining at La Tavola, so maybe we just visited on an off night or ordered the wrong things. But considering all of the new places that are opening, it might be a while until we revisit again.

Other Coverage: The Buffalo News, Buffalo Rising

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