Tavolo V: Not Your Nonnas Italian
The Loops latest eatery favors vegetables, grass-fed beef and craft beers.
You have to hand it to a restaurateur with the chutzpah to install a pizza oven just a few doors down Delmar Boulevard from the much-ballyhooed Pi Pizzeria. Michael Del Pietro, who did just that with Tavolo V, is not making a rookie mistake—this is the sixth restaurant open on his watch right now. So, odds are that he knows exactly what he’s doing. One hint: The Neapolitanstyle thin-crust pizzas coming from his gas-fired, brick-lined oven are a world apart from Pi’s American-style pies—as is the rest of Tavolo’s Southern Italian fare.
Sidewalk dining—a prerequisite for success in The Loop—is expanded at Tavolo via the garage-style doors that let customers at the first three rows of indoor tables feel like they’re also dining al fresco. There’s a small bar area partitioned with a wooden fence; otherwise, the floor plan is wide open, straight through to the kitchen. The lively depiction of St. Louis history in a huge mural provides a focal point and fun conversation piece for indoor diners.
Small Plates, Big Veggies
All but three of the 17 antipasti on the menu prominently feature vegetables (or fruit, in the form of olives and tomatoes). Most of the veggies are raw, roasted or grilled, lightly dressed with vinaigrette or balsamic glaze and popping with flavor. Soak up the last bits with thick slices of crusty, herb-studded bread. Or, soak the bread in olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan. You can even savor it plain—it’s several steps above the usual complimentary bread basket.
Notably absent from the Tavolo menu are two local Italian-American favorites: toasted ravioli and Provel cheese. Fans will have to find solace in the flash-fried calamari and oozy mozzarella instead. The most decadent dishes are listed under pastas, with tomato-cream sauces and meatballs of beef and pork. Yet even in the pasta section, vegetables make frequent appearances, especially in the risotto del giorno, which during our visit, featured perfectly cooked rice studded with asparagus, summer squash and cherry tomatoes under a thin layer of shaved Parmesan.
Something Borrowed, Something New
Del Pietro sampled from his other eateries to create Tavolo’s menu—several salads, pizzas and pastas could be interchanged with the fare at Sugo’s Spaghetteria (Frontenac), Babbo’s Spaghetteria (Chesterfield and Columbia, MO) and Pazzo’s Pizzeria (Kirkwood). The tweaks to his formula, like the previously mentioned vegetables, were made with The Loop’s young, hip clientele in mind. This also seems to be the case with the beer list—with craft brews on tap from several of the city’s newest microbreweries—as well as the art and music. It’s not hard to imagine a DJ spinning from the lofty perch above the bar at some point in the future. Then again, it’s even easier to imagine Tavolo hosting business lunches from the nearby tech start-ups and boutique hotel. A sixth recipe for success? We think so.
Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg