9 | 2.5 | 2 | 1.5
- One of the best, if not the best, Italian restaurants in Sydney
- Pasta is the best in Sydney, handmade fresh daily
- Daily specials menu means more variety as you may never see the same pasta twice
- On the pricier side for a plate of pasta
- Daily specials menu means you may never get your favourite pasta ever again
- Any fresh handmade pasta on their daily specials menu
- Pappardelle Ragu
- Cremino al Cioccolato
TL;DR – In a city with such a high standard of Italian cuisine, A Tavola stands out to be the best of the best in Sydney. Their fresh handmade pasta and daily specials menu are executed to perfection, making A Tavola a restaurant that is very easy to fall in love with.
A lot of people are surprised when they find out that Italian is my second favourite cuisine. Why, they ask. How can one love both Japanese and Italian food when they come from two very different ends of the culinary spectrum?
For years, my answer has come up short. In fact, I may spend my lifetime trying to explain to all those who will listen and never be able to properly articulate it. After all, how do you articulate what’s not tangible? How do you articulate feeling? How do you articulate passion, heart and soul?
This love of all things Italian does not end with just food. Italians create things that move you and make you feel for the intangible, something that is increasingly rare in the modern transactional world.
While it lacks the technical brilliance of German cars or the military precision of Japanese cars, Italian cars make up for it with soul and passion. It’s why posters of Ferraris and Lamborghinis adorn the walls of teenage rooms, not BMW and Mercedes. It’s why people aspire to own Gucci and Prada, not Hugo Boss and Escada.
I’m not saying that Italians make the best food in the world. It certainly isn’t the most technical, the produce can be average at best and it is, at times, excessively carb heavy. But as for food that makes you feel happy, really nothing gets close. Nothing at all.
And where is the best place in Sydney to have Italian food? Where I go for my fix of food for the soul? Where I go to feel happy? A Tavola.
Comfort food done right.
So why is A Tavola, Italian for “to the table”, my favourite Italian restaurant in Australia? (Yes it even beats the amazing Tipo 00 down in Melbourne). Well obviously because of the food, but why is the food better?
There’s nothing more beautiful than handmade pasta.
1. A Tavola hand makes their pasta fresh in-house every day.
If your favourite pasta restaurant doesn’t hand make their pasta fresh every day, you need to find a new favourite pasta restaurant. Yes, now. I suggest A Tavola 🙂
Once you eat fresh pasta it’s basically impossible to go back to dried pasta. Fresh pasta is superior in every way – silkier, better texture and more flavour. The taste and texture of dried pasta is so different that if you did a blind tasting you would likely not recognise them both as pastas.
Of all the fresh pastas I’ve had in Australia (and yes I’ve had a lot), A Tavola is one of the best. Their gnocchi is also the best gnocchi I’ve ever had; it’s like eating clouds. Unfortunately it rarely makes an appearance on the menu these days, but you can always get their gnocchi (in a fantastic Turkey Ragu) over at Besser, their sister restaurant.
A Tavola’s Consigli Blackboard.
Photo credit – A Tavola
2. Daily changing seasonal menu (Consigli).
Yes a lot of restaurants do that these days. But to that, I’ll point out two things.
Firstly, A Tavola had a daily seasonal menu before it was cool back as early as 2008, when I first dined at A Tavola. Secondly, daily seasonal menus are mostly reserved for fine dining restaurants, rather than your casual Italian restaurant. After all, it is a huge time and creative investment to have to recreate a new menu every day.
What this means though is that you can go to A Tavola over 20 times, like I have, and never order the same pasta. Of course there are certain classics that stay on the menu in different variations (more on that later), but I love the anticipation and excitement of trying something new every time I visit.
In recent times, I have noticed that the changes in the menu are more subtle than in 2008. Back then, the whole menu would change on a daily basis, these days it’s only a couple of dishes that change.
Now that you know why I think A Tavola is the best Italian Restaurant in Australia, onto the food.
Focaccia with Chilli Oil (8.5/10)
While it’s not the best bread in the world, it is my favourite bread serving in Sydney. The foccacia can at times be a bit dry. Nevertheless, much like their pasta, the Focaccia is made and baked fresh daily.
But the reason it’s my favourite bread serving is because of the highly addictive chilli olive oil. It has the perfect level of spice, with the spice lingering on your tongue in the most wonderful way. I never fail to order at least seconds of this.
Stracciatella con Barbabietola – Stracciatella, Beetroot, Carasau, Macadamia Dressing – $19 (9.25/10)
The Stracciatella con Barbabietola has got to be my favourite Sydney dish of 2015.
Simply a beautiful representation of what Italian food is and stands for. Simple, Vibrant, Delicious. It’s hard to explain how such a seemingly simple dish can be one of the best dishes I’ve had all year but it boils down to the simplicity of the dish that allows the ingredients themselves to really shine, and the balance of these ingredients.
Creamy, sweet, savoury, smoky, nutty. Amazing.
Carpaccio di Capesante – Smoked Scallops, Green Tomato, Avruga Caviar, Finger Lime, Prawn Crisp – $19 (7/10)
While the Scallops were fresh, and the dish was refreshing, there really was nothing special about this dish. I recommend sticking to my regular entree of Fried Salame Veneto, Polenta, Parmigiano (not pictured).
Triangoli con Asparagi: Triangoli, Taleggio, Asparagus, Ricotta, Crispy Prosciutto – $33 (8.25/10)
I’m a sucker for cheese sauces, so my eyes light up when I saw a cheese Triangoli on the menu.
Luckily, my taste buds lit up when tasting the dish as well. Superbly made Triangoli with a cheese sauce that was the textbook definition of umami. The garnish of crispy Prosciutto added an extra flavour and textural dimension to the dish.
My only gripe, and this rings true for all good Triangoli and Ravioli dishes I’ve ever had – I wish there was more.
Maccheroni alla Chitarra con Ortiche e Granchio – Maccheroni alla Chitarra, Stinging Nettle, Crab – $33 (8/10)
The beauty of the Maccheroni pasta is in the subtle balance of the sauce. The fresh vibrance of the Stinging Nettle (which tastes similar to spinach) marries well with the sweetness of fresh Crab, the subtle undertones of chilli that whisper but never shout, and just when you thought it was over – “pop” goes the Salmon Roe to add a deft touch of saltiness.
A pasta as creative as this would only be possible with a daily seasonal menu.
Pappardelle con Ragu di Manzo – Pappardelle, Slow Braised Beef, Jerusalem Artichoke, Oregano – $35 (9/10)
My favourite pasta at my favourite Italian restaurant in Sydney also happens to be the signature pasta here. A Tavola may have a menu that is updated daily but this Ragu is perennially on the menu, whether it’s made with beef, pork, veal or rabbit.
While it’s a good complex ragu sauce, it’s not the best I’ve had (that award goes to their sister restaurant Besser). What makes this my favourite ragu is the pappardelle; infinitely silky, impossibly thin, incredibly delicious.
The pastas we order turn out to be the colours of the Italian flag. Coincidence? I think not.
So fellow foodies, what’s your favourite Italian restaurant in Sydney?