Pasta Tour - Wednesday Nights At Tavolo

Every Wednesday night, Tavolo, in Dorchester, Mass., hosts a pasta tour featuring a different region of Italy. Back in February there was one based on the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna, and since Jeff and I are planning to go there on our honeymoon, I thought it would be fun to head to Tavolo for a sneak peak of the dishes we might enjoy while abroad. We also thought it was a great opportunity to catch up with our friends who live in Dorchester.

Each pasta tour dinner includes three courses for $25. There are also optional wine pairings, and you can choose a half-pour flight for $8 or a full-pour flight for $16. I decided to get the half-pour flight and received a generous half pour of 2010 Grillo, Feudo Arancio, Sicily with my appetizer and the 2007 Valpolicella, Sartori, Italy with my entree. The white was nice, but I really loved the red and will definitely order it again. (I'm also looking forward to trying Valpolicella when we're in Italy.)

We shared fresh bread and oil and opted to order some of Max's meatballs before we started on the pasta tour menu.

I've been hearing about the meatballs at Tavolo for a while now, so I was excited to finally try them. The meatballs are a side order and come in pairs--we got two orders so we could each have our own meatball. I loved the sauce, and the meat was well seasoned. The meatballs were firm and held together well but they were still tender.

The first component of the pasta tour menu was the tortellini in brodo. This flavorful salty-sweet soup was full of leafy kale and escarole, Parmesan, and rabbit loin medallions. Unlike the rabbit I tried at Mamma Maria recently, I found this rabbit more tender and it reminded me more of thin slices of pork tenderloin than dark meat chicken. And of course, for the pasta aspect, there were some little tortellini in the soup as well. They were filled with a flavorful cheese mixture and cooked al dente.

The entree was marsala-braised lamb with whole-wheat fettuccini, mushrooms, fennel, and pecorino. The dish was nicely flavored, the lamb fell apart with the touch of a fork, and the mushrooms were plentiful. I found the pasta a little... rough... but I've never had fresh whole-wheat pasta before, and I wonder if this is typical of it because of the wheat flour. Like the tortellini it was cooked al dente.

For dessert, we got to try the cenci fritti, or fried ribbons, which were dusted with confectioners' sugar. These long wands of fried dough were a light, sweet bite that ended the meal on the right note.

We enjoyed the food and atmosphere, and our waitress was very courteous and attentive throughout the evening.

Tavolo's pasta tour menu changes on a weekly basis. I think it would be fun to go back and try some specialties of other regions too. Also, on one Wednesday each month, Tavolo will be celebrating Italy's unique food festivals. The chickpea and Barbera festival is coming up on March 7. And on April 4 is the artichoke festival (I might need to get back there for that one!).

Have you had any good pasta dishes lately?

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And, speaking of pasta, have you heard about Max & Dylan's Mac & Cheese Mania? Through March 6 you can submit your best mac and cheese idea (with the most creative ingredients you can think of) on Max & Dylan's Facebook pages (either City Square or Downtown). The chef will then choose his five favorites, and local bloggers (including me!) will judge the concepts in a blind taste test on March 14. The winner will have his or her mac and cheese added to the menu and will be invited to the restaurant to enjoy his or her creation along with three friends. Go submit your ideas!