The new a Tavola Restaurant & Wine Bar takes culinary cues from different parts of Italy. It also draws other inspiration from what its creators say has lately proven a successful recipe in Metairie — a family-friendly approach with a large dining bar for times when the family is not in tow.
Holding down the high-profile intersection of Veterans Boulevard and Severn Avenue, part of the Lakeside Shopping Center complex, a Tavola opened just before Christmas.
It represents the transformation of the space that was long home to the popular chain restaurant Bravo!, and it’s the latest move from Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts, a New Orleans company that has been growing in Jefferson Parish.
Even amid the hardships the pandemic has brought the hospitality business, Marv Ammari, CEO of the company, sensed an opportunity to offer a different concept here.
“We’re trying to bring something crisp and fresh to the market. We think this will be a fresh breath of air,” he said.
While the area has many traditional and long-running Creole-Italian restaurants, a Tavola was drawn up to stand apart. Chef Steven Marsella said the intent was to blend traditional and more contemporary elements across the restaurant and its menu, where flavors from Sicily, Naples and Venice share space.
A dome-shaped pizza oven holds down one corner of the open kitchen, turning out Neapolitan-style pies and the house focaccia, draped with caramelized onion.
Meatballs, baked goat cheese with pesto and seared tuna “semi crudo” with lemon chili vinaigrette start things off. Pasta dishes run through lasagna, lobster ravioli and baked shells with pancetta and Gorgonzola. For entrees, there’s steak, veal piccata, chicken Marsala and a range of fish, including a grilled swordfish with tomato-olive salsa.
At dessert, there’s mascarpone cheesecake, hazelnut torte and gelato from Piccola Gelateria, the Freret Street-based maker.
While the food is fixed on Italy, a Tavola came together with some lessons learned just down the street at Boulevard American Bistro. This is the same company developed in the former home of Houston’s, another popular chain restaurant that closed up shop.
Creole Cuisine opened a second location of Boulevard in Harahan in May, one of the first new restaurants to arrive during the pandemic.
Both locations feature large, four-sided dining bars that function as their own realm within the restaurants. Given its popular appeal, that design was worked into a Tavola as well.
The new restaurant has a second service bar for tables and the patio seating. That’s intended to help staff at the main bar focus on the customers seated with them.
As Bravo!, the restaurant space was staked with faux Roman ruins. The new restaurant has a much more modern style — a remix of bare wood, gleaming tile and sleek light fixtures lining the open rafters.
Bravo! operated here for 20 years before closing in March. The chain, based in Ohio, still has two dozen locations around the country, though it no longer has a New Orleans-area presence.
The term “a tavola” comes from an Italian expression for the joy of the dinner table. A large, 12-seat communal table is part of the new restaurant’s design.
A Tavola has two dining patios, one covered and equipped with heaters. At the daily happy hour, the restaurant serves $7 appetizers, $5 house cocktails, wines by the glass and half-price pizza.
3413 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, (504) 577-2235
Lunch and dinner daily, happy hour daily 2-6 p.m.
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