Walk down old cobblestone streets in Italy as the day winds down, and you might see a wooden table and chairs that were pulled out of someone’s home and placed right onto the street. It’s a heavenly sight.
I guarantee whatever food is going on that table would make you swoon, and the occupants of those chairs plan on sitting there well into the night, perfecting the art of lingering. When I decided on the phrase “pleasure at the table” for my business, it is this kind of scene that was the inspiration.
The word for table in Italian is “il tavolo,” however, most Americans know it as “la tavola.” What’s the difference? “Un tavolo” refers to a table simply as a piece of furniture. As soon as food is put on that table and people gather around, it magically turns into “una tavola.”
When I first learned this, two thoughts came to my mind. Firstly, what an interesting concept this is. Secondly, this is precisely why I adore those beautifully crazy, food obsessed Italians!
Sharing a meal with others is not an act they perform on their way to some other event, like a dinner and a show. They’re not going anywhere after, unless it’s to another meal, because for them the meal IS the event. And it’s so important and special that it can transform a surface into something that needs a whole different name. It’s not just the presence of food that matters, but also that conversation, laughter, ambience, and caring are added as well.
Now that’s a thing of beauty.
I created the La Tavola Experience with a simple question — “What would excite me at a meal?”
- I want to see/taste something that I haven’t seen/tasted before.
- I want to wonder, “How did they do that?”
- I want to make discoveries on my plate, to be surprised.
- I want real depth of flavor, even in desserts and drinks.
- I want unexpected things to appear on the table.
- I want to see real thought put into the diner’s overall experience.
- I want the service to be as great as the food.
- I want to laugh, feel emotions, and leave inspired and cared for.
For this Italian inspired meal, the menu unravels like this:
Antipasti – This course is a very important part of the meal. It whets your appetite.
Primo – It is the most famous Italian course, but most Americans know only a very limited amount of pasta, gnocchi, and risotto dishes. Shapes, fillings, sauces, doughs, and ingredient combinations are virtually endless and very regional. Enni handles pasta in the Italian way, in that the quality of the pasta is as important as the sauce. The two are cooked together at the end with the help of the pasta water so that they “become one.” This results is a superior plate of pasta.
Intermezzo – This is known as the palate cleanser and is a refreshing pause in the meal, and is usually a sorbet that has some sour or bitterness.
Secondo – Italians separate their meats, starches, and vegetables. This allows each food to be fully appreciated. The protein is the star in the meat/fish course with very little else on the plate.
Contorno – This is the vegetable course. Vegetables presented on their own become important instead of just a side to something else.
Insalata – The salad course is at the end instead of the beginning. With meat in the middle of the meal and being the most filling the vegetable courses afterwards bring lightness back to the meal. The humble salad will be elevated to art.
Formaggio – The perfect connector between dinner and dessert is the cheese course because it has elements of both savory and sweet once you’ve added all of the accompaniments. It is also a chance for diners to finish their last sips of dinner wine before moving on to a dessert pairing.
Dolce and Frutta – The end of the meal. Big on flavor and a “gift” at the end of your meal.
Digestivo and Espresso – A digestivo is a liquor that is meant to help with digestion. The most well known are grappa and limoncello but of course there are so many others. Espresso is offered with a dry cookie for dunking. The digestivo could also be added to the espresso. This is a very important part of an Italian meal experience and is rarely experienced in America. A restaurant in Italy could have been closed for an hour and they will not make you feel like you have to go. This is such a luxurious feeling.