The popular Grandview eatery is currently dishing up some of the city's best pasta
Remember nightly specials ordered from the chalkboard of an excellent restaurant and cooked by a talented chef using seasonal ingredients? I do, and my memories are as fresh as the food that created them because last week I ordered takeout from La Tavola.
It’s far from business as usual for La Tavola — an elite Italian eatery in Grandview — but the restaurant is functioning closer to normal than untold others during the coronavirus pandemic. As chef Rick Lopez, who co-owns La Tavola with wife/baker Krista, recently explained over the phone, “We’re lucky to be embedded in a neighborhood and geared for takeout.”
The current ordering system at La Tavola, somewhat like its delicious cuisine, teams the up-to-date with the classic. Lopez posts photos of his daily chalkboard menu on Instagram around 4 p.m. and customers order by phone — La Tavola has one line — after the restaurant opens at 5 p.m.
Because La Tavola is popular, Lopez said it’s often flooded with a “logjam” of early callers. He’s right — ringing between 5 and 5:30 p.m. led to so many busy signals that it reminded me of trying to win a contest orchestrated by a radio station. In the case of La Tavola, the reward is worth any possible frustration.Get a new takeout dining review delivered to your inbox every Monday when you sign up for our daily newsletter
Food is picked up in the restaurant after a well-estimated wait time of 15-30 minutes. Inside the eatery, you’ll find an adherence to social distancing, easy access to hand sanitizer and a sharply coordinated staff wearing gloves and masks.
After returning home, you’ll find some of the best food you’ve eaten recently. This certainly describes a fantastic Halibut special ($31) that was like spring on a plate — or in a round plastic container if inhaled straight from the takeout receptacle.
A beautiful piece of plump, snow-white fish was succulent and flaky beneath its expertly seared crust. The halibut was uplifted by a bold and garlicky ramp-pesto smear with sweet wild onion notes that spoke to the foraged freshness of the ramps. Sides were a compelling red pepper polenta and thin, flawlessly grilled asparagus spears highlighted by a spritz of lemon.
Fresh springtime meat was showcased, along with La Tavola’s outstanding handmade pasta, in the wonderful Lamb Ragu ($28). The lusty dish paired wide, lovely ribbons of pappardelle with a stew-like, long-cooked dark meat sauce featuring tender chopped lamb, tomatoes, onions, wine, rosemary and fennel.
The Whipped Ricotta ($9) was a shareable appetizer that used oil and vinegar to marry sweet and crisp snap peas to smooth-as-frosting cheese. It’s best enjoyed with La Tavola’s flavorful, complimentary house bread.
Unlike the aforementioned specials, a few items seem to appear on the menu every night. One is perhaps the best — and among the biggest — versions of Chicken Parmigiano in town ($18): exemplary cutlets of local poultry flattered by oven-blistered cheese and a lively, nuanced tomato sauce. The skillfully prepared, old-favorite dish is even better when assembled with La Tavola’s supple-yet-sturdy handmade fettuccine (a $4 upgrade).
Expect the Gnocchi Al Forno ($19) to be consistently available, as well. This signature offering of pillowy potato dumplings in a sharp and rich, wine-spiked cheese sauce enhanced with artichokes, herbs and onions is consistently addictive, too. And it's even harder to stop gobbling when bolstered with prosciutto ($2 extra).
Trying to decide which house-made dessert to indulge in is a win-win dilemma. But if you choose the Lemon Tart ($6), you’ll get a buttery little pie crust with a custardy filling whose richness is offset by pronounced citrus notes. The delightful treat is so bright and soothing, you might not think it’s entirely coincidental that it visually resembles a tiny, morning sun.