The Academy of Italian cuisine is Italian cultural association, founded in 1953 in Milan Orio Vergani. On 18 August 2003 it was recognized as a Cultural Institution of the Italian Republic. The association aims to protect the Italian culinary tradition and to promote and encourage the improvement in Italy and abroad, through various initiatives, studies and disclosures including a study center, publishing activities, tastings, etc..It was the first among the Italian associations to defend and promote the Italian gastronomic culture and its regional traditions.
It was one hour after midday, when members started arriving one after the other mingling around a fine glass of wine. We were offered a preset menu by the president which included some of Tavolina's greatest creations. Chef Dany Kheirallah was also present to make sure that not a single detail is not mastered to perfection. The place's architecture:
- High white glass facades allows natural light in
- A general feel of peace and serenity along this simple white space and lamps pending from the ceiling
- Facing the entrance, a table along the main wall is referred to as “Dalla”, which is used to prepare some of the signature dishes (parmigiana, slicing charcuterie, etc.) relating to the name of the place (La Tavolina)
- To the right, a long bar hosts the impressive pizza oven covered in copper sheets. "Tavolina" sign is written in big on a black wall
- Wooden square tables decorated by red and white placemats
- A blackboard where the day's specials are written, divides the restaurant in half
- To the extreme left, a large mirror makes the place look twice as big, with a long bench under it
- Black and white tiles like a checker board cover the floor
- Wooden chairs and tables add the Italian classy feel to the place
- The ceiling is covered with a design layer of foam that absorbs all the echoes
A one single paper accordion menu:
- Antipasti (15 choices)
- Dalla Tavolina (this is prepared from the Dalla table, which also serves the dish of the day with products of the season) 2 choices
- Primi Piatti (14 choices)
- Pizze (16 different choices)
- Carne (4 different choices)
- Contorni (4 different choices)
- Dolci (4 different choices)
Tables are clean, simple and clear decorated with three different bottles of olive oil, a water cup and a glass of wine, then came some slices of bread accompanied with olives. A very good first impression as the olives and bread are both good.
To accompany our lunch, we chose a special yet smooth wine, the Colli Vicentini, Pinot Grigio, Veneto. Fresh from the presses of rural Italy, this Pinot Grigio is an inspired blend of many Italian grape varieties giving a floral wine with a soup on of citrus - voluptuous with meadows of heady Italian springtime. This wine has a stunning floral aroma and lifted citrus on the palate; creamy texture, nice weight and a slightly mineral finish. Perfect as an aperitif or with pasta and seafood.
We had for lunch:
- Calamari all Griglia (Fresh grilled calamari with lemon oil dressing): lemon sauce, cherry tomato, rockets. With a pleasnt grilling after taste, the soft and tender calamari are enjoyable and fresh
- Vitello Tonnato (Veal, tuna dip, capers): Thin and adequately seasoned. I enjoyed it so much
- Parmegiana di Melanzane (eggplant, cheese, tomato sauce, padano cheese): Tasty and full of taste but a bit too soggy
- Frittura Mista (Deep fried calamari, local baby fish, shrimps, eggplant, zuchini): Fried fish is not oily but can be fresher especially with the first frying smells that dissipate. Nice saltiness. Just add lemon before you start enjoying
- Insalata di Mare (Octopus, calamari, shrimps, lemon oil dressing): Basil, lemon, olive, cherry tomato. This plate's presentation is eye candy but the octopus used is too chewy. Could have been better
- Pizza con Mozzarella di Bufala (Tomato, buffalo cheese): Rich tomato sauce that doesn't taste like bolognese. The crunchiness of the dough is perfect. (Foccacia, tomato, Burrata): A thin dough surrounded by crunchy borders. The border alone is extraordinary, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. A generous filling makes this pizza remarkable: Cherry tomatoes, tasty cheese, olive oil, tomato paste and mozzarella with rocket leaves on top covered with balsamic vinegar. Superb!
- Pizza Napoletana (Tomato, cheese, anchovies, capers): Yummy! Bravo
- Pizza Tavolina (Tomato, buffalo cheese, spicy calabrese pepperoni): With its watery tomato, this pizza is one of the best Lebanon has to offer. The chorizo add the needed finesse. They are spicy and full of flavors
- Tagliata di Manzo al Balsamico e Rucola: (Beef tenderloin, balsamic sauce, rocca, reggiano cheese): Soft and tender, served with balsamic sauce on top, and covered with parmesan served on rocket leaves with couple of cherry tomatoes. Unfortunately this plate was cold making it loose its richness
- Cotoletta alla Milanese (Veal cutlet escalope, rocca, cherry tomato): A big NO on all fronts. Too thin and super oily and lacking taste and flavor. Add more meat and surely suck away all the unneeded oil. A premium veal quality lost in the frying process
- Spaghetti Pomodoro: Just look at the picture and see how beautiful the color of this plate is. Even though the tomatoes used are too sweet for a pomodoro, we all tasted it and enjoyed it. I would personally use non sweet tomatoes
- Soufflé al Cioccolato: Served in a copper casserole. Hot soft and tender. Dark but not heart burning... A successful dessert
- Tiramisu Tradizionale: Rich in flavors
Two thumbs up for their pizza. I can honestly say that Tavolina has one of the best not to say the best Italian pizza ever in Lebanon. A 30cm perfectly round pizza with thin non chewy dough and generous filling. Amazingly well decorated, the ingredients are fresh and tasty. Surrounding these ingredient is a thick round border, crunchy on the outside and spongy on the inside that you really enjoy eating with an after effect of YUM! If you like Marguerita’s pizza, you will fall in love with Tavolina’s.
Dear Pizzaiolo, you deserve a round of applause.
I enjoyed my lunch overall and now enjoy being the youngest member of only 21 members in Lebanon. I'll be definitely coming to Tavolina again sooner than you might expect.