We’ve been excited about this one for a long time.
As we said when we first entered Tavola into The Charlottesville 29, if there were one thing we would change about the beloved restaurant, it would be to add cocktails. (Truth be told, we’d make the same recommendation for almost anything that lacks cocktails — like, say, the dentist’s office, the LSATs, or Bodo’s.) Sure, Tavola’s wines are outstanding, and pair well with food, but “a Negroni or a Little Giusseppe would be an ideal way to cool down before a Tavola meal,” we wrote at the time.
In a beautiful new space behind the storefront restaurant, with sculpture by Lily Erb, Tavola has opened a cocktail lounge and cicchetti bar. This is great news for several reasons. For one, Tavola loyalists will now be able to wait for a table while enjoying a drink and a light bite. For years, when the popular restaurant has been full, a host or hostess would take down dinner guests’ cell phone numbers and direct them to a nearby bar.
But, beyond just serving as a waiting room, the bar’s food and drink are so appealing that many folks may choose to make a full night there, and skip the restaurant altogether. Cicchetti are small snacks or dishes commonly served at informal Italian bars, most notably in Venice. For his cicchetti, chef and co-owner Michael Keaveny plans the same approach he uses in Tavola: creating food he imagines Italians would eat if Italy were in Virginia. “Our goal has always been to take the Italian food philosophy and apply it to the excellent sources we have here in central Virginia,” said Keaveny.
The chalkboard menu will change daily, but offerings to date have included JM Stock pate di campania, Twenty Paces ricotta with honey and bread, and salmon crudo with capers, lemon, shallots, and chili oil.
Managing the bar is Christian Johnston, who trained under Micah LeMon at The Alley Light. Johnston plans his own cocktails, infused liquors, house-made mixers, and an array of grappa. Johnston’s personal favorites are classics with his own riffs, like a Smuggler’s Gimlet, combining pineapple and pink peppercorn infused Belle Isle Moonshine with a cardamom lime cordial; and the Manhattan, with Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, peach tea infused Contratto Bianco, and Fee Brothers’ Peach Bitters. Also on the list are house creations like the True Grit: Elijah Craig 12 Year Bourbon, Barolo Chinato, lemon, simple syrup, egg white, and an Islay rinse.
While the bar is already serving food and drinks, the grand opening celebration is this Friday, June 5. Details: