Hudson Valley Italian Food Restaurant Review: A Tavola Trattoria, New Paltz, NY
A Tavola in New Paltz weds authentic Italian cuisine with the abundant produce available in the Valley
Roman holiday: A fledgling New Paltz trattoria offers real-deal Italian fare — like this poached octopus with chickpeas, roasted peppers, and Taggia olives
Photographs by Jennifer May
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“Tutti a tavola a mangiare!”
Cooking-show aficionados will no doubt recognize this Italian phrase: Renowned chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich (Lidia’s Italy, Lidia’s Family Table) pronounces it at the end of each episode of her series. Roughly translated, it means “Everyone to the table to eat.”
This hearty invitation kept running through my mind during our visit to A Tavola, the five-month-old Italian eatery in the restaurant-crowded village of New Paltz. Owners Nathan and Bonnie Snow — former chefs de cuisine at New York’s Al Di La and Sfolgia, respectively — have created a rustic but truly authentic trattoria that combines traditional Italian fare with the bounty of straight-from-the-farm ingredients available in the Valley. The result is extraordinary.
Located in the space most recently occupied by the eatery Beso, A Tavola was pleasantly busy on the rainy late summer weeknight that we visited. The rustic theme begins at the door: a tripod of wire baskets — filled with massive sweet potatoes, peppers, and other fresh veggies — greets diners as they enter. Painted in vigorous earth tones (chocolate brown, beige, maroon), the 60-seat restaurant has seating on two floors, a spacious bar area, and a wall of windows that reaches up to the second-floor ceiling (and lets in plentiful light, making the space seem larger than it is). Candlelit farm tables are spaced comfortably apart; a mix of jazz, folk, and muted rock plays in the background; and the clientele (Bonnie informs us later) is an amalgam of locals and city folk, many of whom — judging by the number of hugs bestowed upon the friendly, competent staff — are obviously regulars. One simple but telling wall decoration is the chalkboard, which lists the eight local farms and vineyards that supply A Tavola with the majority of its fresh ingredients. “There are dishes we serve where everything on the plate — except the olive oil — comes from within five miles of here,” Bonnie says with justifiable pride.
Table service: Owners Bonnie and Nathan Snow in the upstairs dining room
We begin our meal with a glass of Pinot Grigio from the moderately priced ($35-$68) wine list; with the exception of two bottles produced at Gardiner’s Whitecliff Vineyards, all the offerings are Italian vintages. Our waitress — who looked no older than my college-student daughter, but certainly knew her way around the menu — promptly brought a berry basket filled with warm, house-made Italian bread and a ramekin of olive oil for dipping. Slightly salty, amazingly fresh, and soul-satisfying, the bread was a harbinger of the meal to come.
The menu is divided into antipasti (appetizers), primi (pasta, risotto, gnocchi dishes), and secondi (entrées). Although the poached octopus appetizer is one of A Tavola’s signature dishes, our non-seafood-eating trio could not be tempted; we opted instead for the slow roasted local beets and the antipasti special, a combination of three dishes that serves two. Our dueling forks flew across the table, stealing bites from each plate. The crostini was an early favorite: the topping of whipped ricotta, pickled peaches, and truffled honey was a distinct complement of tastes and textures to the crunch of the grilled bread. The watermelon salad got some zing from paper-thin red onion, buffalo mozzarella, and pesto; sweet roasted beets — paired with licorice-like shaved fennel, the mild crunch of pistachios, and a creamy whipped ricotta — were a symphony of flavors.
» Visit A Tavola Trattoria in New Paltz, NY
» Visit A Tavola Trattoria’s Web site at www.atavolany.com
» Go to the Accidental Foodie blog review of A Tavola in New Paltz, NY
» Go to the Hudson Valley Restaurants & Dining Guide
» Go to the Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide