Honolulu is blessed with an abundance of Italian restaurants. The popularity of Italian cuisine is reflected in the wide range of regional specialties that are available. No longer is it sufficient for a restaurant to merely offer “Italian” food. Today most will proudly indicate the region or regions that have inspired their menu. At the very least, most restaurants will indicate “Northern Italian” or “Southern Italian”, much like a Chinese eatery would label itself “Cantonese” or “Mandarin”.
At Tavola Tavola the inspiration comes from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Located on the southern side of the Po River and north of Florence, this is an area with a rich gastronomic history. An abundance of meats and seafood combined with hearty, rich sauces are hallmarks of this regional cuisine.
Tavola Tavola takes this inspiration a step further by combining these classic recipes with fresh local seafood and produce. The result is a delicious, well-rounded menu that accurately reflects the cuisine’s regional heritage, but one that also takes advantage of the offerings of its island setting.
A quick glance at the antipasti menu confirms the aforementioned observation. Here we have fabulous Parma prosciutto served with fresh island papaya. For purists, there is also the prosciutto with arugula and cherry tomatoes. Fried calamari and zucchini are classic Italian favorites, while the tuna carpaccio “alla giapponese” reminds us of our Pacific location.
All the pasta dishes are cooked to order. The Lasagna Verde is spinach lasagna that is true to its roots. This is not the deep-dish tomato and ricotta cheese version, but a thinner, more sophisticated, but equally hearty dish. The “Vampiro” pasta lives up to its name with a spicy red seafood sauce, while the Pappardelle with mushrooms and rich Bolognaise ragu is an Emiliano classic.
The main course offerings feature dishes that are not to be found elsewhere on Oahu. A substantial lamb stew with polenta and homemade sausage with soft polenta, are true regional specialties. These are balanced with more mainstream items such as the Florentine steak and the baked fresh fish with sautéed vegetables and aromatic olive oil.
Desserts are made in-house and proudly displayed in the center of the dining room. The apple tarte with vanilla gelato is a favorite, as is the ubiquitous tiramisu. A nice selection of after dinner drinks rounds out a delightful dinner.
The service here is excellent and deserves special mention. The servers are personable and attentive and seem to take a genuine interest in pleasing their patrons. The ambiance is unpretentious yet very European in feeling. Good spacing between tables means unobtrusive dining.
With a plethora of Italian restaurants to choose from, Tavola Tavola distinguishes itself with authentic regional dishes that combine classic recipes with fresh island ingredients in an enjoyable setting with superb service.