Hell’s Kitchen may not be Manhattan’s quietest neighborhood; however, one venue offers the chance to transport yourself to authentic Italy. At Tavola, regional farmhouse cooking — mainly focusing on Puglia, Sicily and Rome — and a simple but high-quality wine menu delight guests’ senses, while a 7,000-pound wood burning double oven cooks pizza in one and entrees like fresh catch fish and smoky artichokes splashed with lemon and vinaigrette for a salad in the other. Crafted from Vesuvio volcanic clay, you won’t find anything else like it in Manhattan — or the country!
“When dining at Tavola, New Yorkers feel that they can eat in New York City the same way they ate during their travels throughout Italy,” explains Chef and Owner Nicola Accardi. “It is making New Yorkers more adept in the traditions of Italian dining as it is in Italy, as opposed to Italian American food.”
Located in the former 120-year-old Manganaro’s Grosseria Italiana space, this under-the-radar restaurant was inspired by Accardi’s agriturismo (farm-stay) travels throughout Italy, where he was influenced by the different regions and their fresh, local cooking. Through opening Tavola, Accardi has been able to showcase a menu of seasonal ingredients and fresh herbs put together in a simple, unfussy, Italian style. Accradi works alongside Chef Giancarlo Dellanzo, the restaurant’s chef de cuisine.
One highlight of the menu is the olive oil, a single varietal Castelveltrano imported from Sicily. The tasting experience of the olive oil is akin to the glass of Falanghina I’m sipping, my palate picking up herbaceous and peppery notes. While this olive oil comes with the before-dinner bread, it, as well as the olives themselves, are also incorporated into a number of dishes, like the “Salumi” antipasti with hot prosciutto di parma, sopressata coppa and Castelvetrano olives; the “Spaghettini Vongole” with Manila clams, roasted garlic, Italian parsley, peperoncino and olive oil; and the classic marinara pizza. Speaking of pizza, if you order one item off the menu make it the pizza, as it’s cooked in the wood-burning oven for a quick 90 seconds, allowing for a traditional Neopolitan pizza with thin crispy crust that’s light with a smoky essence. This is in line with the restaurant’s philosophy of making delicious tasting food that’s not too heavy and is healthy.
They also make hand-rolled pastas incorporating ingredients like buffalo mozzarella, ricotta, peperoncini, Sicilian eggplant and porcini mushrooms. Ask your server if they have any pizza or pasta featuring Pesto Trapanese, a type of pesto from Trapani, Sicily, made with almonds instead of pine nuts, a touch of fennel, anchovy and chunks of tomato, showcasing the Arabic influence on Sicily. Other dishes to sample include “Eggplant Parmigiana,” “Wood Oven Roasted Salmon,” and “Grilled Frute di Mare.”
For dessert, their cannoli shells are flown in from in from Italy and stuffed with home-made filling when ordered. Moreover, their Stracciatella Semifreddo is like a light pudding ice cream filled with hidden chunks of chocolate and gowned in fresh berries.
While the drink menu isn’t long, you’ll undoubtedly appreciate the offerings: Chianti, Sangiovese, Grillo, Trebbiano and Prosecco, to name a few choices. Beer is also an option, and happy hour is from 3:30 to 6:30pm seven days a week, with glasses of wine offered for 1/2 price.
Beyond food, wine and ambiance, Tavola is also active in the local community, helping to sponsor local schools and events like charity walks, offering free dinners for two as a prize. They also work with Tables for the Poor at St. Francis Xavier Church, donating food during Thanksgiving as well as food and money throughout the year.