A romantic place for couples.
Viet Nam News
The first time I went to Tavola was last year on my wedding anniversary.
We were looking for a place that was warm and romantic. Some friends and food bloggers opined Tavola had the best Italian food in the city, and that made up our minds.
We were late, reaching the restaurant only at around 8.30pm. It was quite large with two floors. The atrium-like ground floor with its tall shelves filled with Italian wines and decorative items made the restaurant look cavernous.
There was a wine bar and possibly the largest open kitchen in HCM City.
At the waiter’s suggestion -- “it will be the best place to have a candlelit dinner” -- we took a corner table on the first floor.
I was taking in the décor and ambience and let my husband order.
Our dinner began with a lobster Catalana (VNĐ1.88 million ++). The crustacean came decorated with cherry tomatoes, thick onion slices and some basil leaves.
I immediately began to fret since, like many Vietnamese, I struggle with a fork and knife.
The waiter had recommended it as the signature dish of the restaurant and the lobsters were imported all the way from Canada.
I need not have worried: beneath the shell, it was cut into small, bite-sized pieces.
The meat was really fresh and sweet. A slightly sour note made it delicious, and it went well with my wine.
Though a bit big for the two of us, it was so delicious that we polished it off easily.
We then tried the tagliata di manzo (VNĐ900,000++), a kind of beef steak with vegetables.
The beef was grilled at a temperature I thought was just right for me as it was tender.
We finished with tiramisu. The cake was not too sweet, and I discovered it was made without sugar.
We were happy since we had managed to find some dishes we had never seen before in Sài Gòn.
I told myself as we were leaving I would be back to try spaghetti made Italian-style, which I had eaten in that country a few years ago when travelling. I had never managed to find it in Việt Nam.
And so I was. Back. Not long afterwards, after doing some shopping nearby.
I chose a table on the ground floor this time. There were small tables and chairs for people to sit opposite each other to talk just like I had seen in Rome and Venice.
I ordered a spaghetti bottarga (VNĐ265,000), bottarga being salted and dried fish roe.
Tagliata Di Manzo
While waiting for the food, I got the chance to chat with the restaurant owner, Hoài Anh, who told me tavola means table in Italian.
“A table is something that connects people: Take a seat, chat, tell stories and people will get closer.”
She had worked in the fashion industry and often travelled to Italy, visiting many restaurants as well as places making wines and cheese.
Thus was born her desire to open an Italian restaurant.
With support from some Italian friends, she opened the Tavola and hired a consultant and chef from Italy to ensure everything was authentic.
The spaghetti came and was slightly hard just as I remembered it in Italy and unlike anything I had tried in Việt Nam.
Its sauce was made of olive oil, garlic and bottarga, which I was eating for the first time. As I ate it, it began to grow on me.
I spoke with the chef, Mannazu Pier Franco, who is from Sardinia.
“Italian food is all about ingredients,” he said.
“It means cooking can be straightforward if you have excellent ingredients. So the way we buy ingredients is very careful and without compromises.”
Their bottarga, for instance, comes straight from Italy.
The manager, Mathisa Turri, himself an, er, authentic Italian, said the food is from all parts of his country
They buy a unique kind of flour for the pizza. My friend who tried Tavola’s pizza was all praise for it, saying the base was possibly the best in town. A vegetarian, he regretted choosing the wrong topping, though he said it was still pretty good.
Every Wednesday the first floor becomes a swing dance floor, where you can shake a leg if you buy a beer (starting at VNĐ45,000).
Every time I have been to the restaurant, it has been a pleasant experience, and not surprisingly I feel drawn to the place.
As Hoài Anh said, “You can never get enough of authentic Italian food.”
Next time I go there I think I’ll try one of the tables in the porch, where the restaurant often organises parties for companies or groups of friends. -- VNS
Tavola Original Italian Taste
Open from 7:00 to 24:00 from Monday to Sunday
G Floor, Petro Vietnam Tower 1-5 Lê Duẩn St, Dis 1t
Classic and modern Italian cuisine by Chef Mannazu PierFranco.