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By Michael Hepworth

Charlottesville in Virginia has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States according to a number of reliable sources. Maybe it is because of the student population of the University of Virginia and their propensity for fast food, but one success story is that of Tavola, a modern Italian bistro that opened in July 2009 in the Belmont District of the city.  By all accounts, there seems to be a shortage of quality Italian restaurants here, but Tavola has really raised the bar quite a bit. A small and intimate 37 seat restaurant, they do not take reservations, so be prepared to wait a bit especially on the weekend.

The former wine bar was packed on a Tuesday night on my recent visit to Charlottesville , and a quick glance at the menu indicated that Tavola is not prepared to play it that safe with the cooking. There is no reason whatsoever the concept could transfer into bigger and more cosmopolitan cities, but for now Charlottesville is where it will stay. The lighting in the restaurant is just right, and it is perfectly easy to read the menu without squinting, as well as the half dozen daily specials chalked up on the blackboard.

Using only produce from local farms in the Charlottesville area, Tavola also uses chemical free scallops and shrimp, all natural beef and poultry, and pork provided by the highly rated Polyface and Double H Farms.  All the more surprising is chef/owner Michael Keaveny only has one assistant in the tiny open kitchen, and on a weekend night this dynamic duo can prepare almost 130 covers. The menu is compact but not that tiny, and a good idea for a first course would be the cozze ai ferri, skillet roasted mussels from Canada , served with garlic butter and parsley. An absolute delight especially with the brusso olive oil making everything taste so fresh.

I also tried one of the specials, a mozzarella style salad with burrata cheese and sun dried tomatoes, aragula, pesto and EV olive oil that really stood out. The revelation here was the burrata, a cow’s milk cheese that is highly seductive. To make it you encase a soft lump of sweet cream butter w/soft fresh mozzarella, and the result is a cheese lovers paradise.  One of the main signature dishes of the chef is the papardelle ragu, house made pasta w/pork and a red wine ragu with everona pecorino and basil. This dish was consumed in its entirety I have to admit, but the notes I scribbled for myself indicated that I found it slightly heavy for my own personal taste.

The Capesante ai ferri, pan roasted diver sea scallops out of Boston with a blood red and very tart risotto with white truffle oil was again a first time experience for me. Scallops tasted fantastic, and the style of the risotto was again a first for me and quite a unique experience.  The wine list is split between Italian, French, California and Oregon and quite extensive for a small restaurant, and the selected wine for the evening was a white Tenuta Roveglia “lugano” classico 2008 at $39 a bottle.This was a perfect match for the scallops, and again the very helpful and loyal staff were instrumental in the right selection.


Fact Sheet

Address: 826 Hinton Ave , Charlottesville 22902

Phone : (434) 922-9463

Email: info@tavolavino.com

Dinner only 5-10pm Tuesday-Saturday

Average check for 2 w/wine $80


























































































































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