When I received an invitation for a Blogger dinner at Tavolo in Dorchester my initial response was, "Oh it's in Dorchester, maybe not." I don't usually head out that way and the thought of traversing the dreaded I93 was not a pleasant one, and I would hate to find a new favorite restaurant in a place I never frequent. But I figured good food and fun with good people was worth the hike.
Of course it took me a week to get around to writing about it but whose counting. If you're not paying attention you might miss Tavolo as you drive down Dorchester Ave it is inconspicuously located in a huge brick building that feels more like a home of offices than a fine dining restaurant. In fact I almost drove right past it. The inside feels like a comfortable family eatery with a slightly avant garde decorator. The the room we were seated in had floor to ceiling chalkboard walls covered in awesome doodles from a local artist. Every time I looked up I saw another thing to make me smile. And the lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling were so interesting that they kept coming up as topics of conversation all night long.
This dinner was meant to be a showcase of the non-pizza fare that the restaurant has to offer as it moves away from a simple pizzeria and into the realm of fine dining. One awesome thing about dining with food bloggers is that I was not the only person taking pictures when the food arrived. It was really nice to be among others trying to get the perfect shot and swapping picture taking tips.
But I digress, onward to the food!
We started with a watermelon feta salad which was refreshing and accented by chopped mint and basil leaves. Now I'm not normally one for watermelon salad but this was stupendous. The feta was a perfect salty accent to the watery sweet melon and the mint and basil were surprisingly good fresh accents.
Next we were treated to some of the tenderest lightest gnocchi I have ever had with pancetta, pecorino, and local fava beans. The gnocchi was a perfect texture, not too chewy or hard and the chewy salty pancetta really went well with it. This was also a great showcase for the fresh beans and definitely gave me ideas for the future. I think this was my favorite dish of the evening I was really sad when I had finished this dish I could have kept eating it all night.
They brought out some house meatballs to accompany the gnocchi and these were stupendous. I am seriously picky about my meatballs and these passed all of my tests. They were mouthwateringly good. Salty and meaty with the right amount of umami and a clearly superior blend of meats combined with the simply succulent tomato sauce made for the perfect meatball. You can get them as a side order, with pasta or pressed in a panini (something I would really like to sample) If you don't try anything else on Tavolo's menu give these a try!
The next thing on the menu was a swordfish involtini. I really like swordfish though I forget about it from time to time and this was definitely a reminder of the amazing things you can do with swordfish. I've never thought of swordfish as a light and delicate dish. The only way I've ever seen it served is as a steak, so when they presented me with a thin cut of fish rolled around a mash of fontina cheese, garlic and parsley and adorned with a light sauce and sliced tomatoes, I was sceptical. But it was love at first bite. This was amazing, the cheese and garlic really brought out the meatiness of the fish while the delicate cut made it surprisingly light and the flavor combination was unforgettable salty, rich and meaty with the slight tang of tomatoes to cut any possibly fishiness. This was really a wonderful dish and yet another instance of me wanting to eat an entire plate of just this. I was finished with the tiny portion before I even realized it and I kind of mourned the loss of the that amazing flavor.
I got over my disappointment pretty quickly when I noticed that duck was the next thing on the menu. I adore duck, it is really one of my favorite things so I was really excited to see it on the menu. It was perfectly cooked and served with a little bit of current jam, currents tartness always go really well with the rich meatiness of duck and this was no exception. I disagreed with the faro and green beans that were served with it though. The faro was an odd texture to go with the duck and it had an overly earthy aftertaste. The green beans were fine, but not quite cooked enough or salty enough for my taste.
We ended the evening with coffee and a grilled blueberry pound cake with whipped cream and blueberry sauce. I actually split a coffee with a friend because it was late and I wanted to get home but then be able to get to sleep afterwards. I have to say this was great coffee, well balanced and not bitter at all. Though pound cake and blueberries aren't my favorite things. This was a nice light end to the evening and the grilling of the cake was a stroke of genius. There was a light caramelizing of the sugar around the edges of the cake that gave it the perfect texture and flavor, and the light flavor of blueberry cleansed the palate and left me feeling full and satisfied but not over sugared.
Overall I would recommend Tavolo, if for nothing other than the meatballs. I did notice that almost nothing on the menu we sampled was indicated on the regular menu, but I would definitely go back and sample anything on their regular menu. This was a really fantastic meal and I would recommend this place to anyone.