A Taste of Italy

When you think of Italy, it may be hard to land on just one of the magnificent descriptors that comes to mind. Do you imagine peering out at the beautiful, sweeping vistas, loaded with vineyards and olive groves, from your quaint, centuries-old stone lodging? Do you picture yourself exploring the small streets and villages in historic, must-see areas, like Rome, Pompeii or Venice? Or, does your mind float to the more granular aspects of what creates the “feeling” of Italy? There are little things that make up the big picture of what it means to be Italian. You know … little things like food, family and passion.

Passion comes in many forms, but the Italians have it down when it comes to pairing that passion with food and family. There is nothing better than a happy, loud Italian family … other than a full, happy, loud Italian family! Owners and restauranteurs Jeff Frankel and Jim Lannom, along with executive chef Andrew Powers, could not have chosen a better area to bring their new restaurant concept, Tavolo Italia, to life. Frisco has the perfect blend of people full of passion for their families and people who love to throw their support behind new adventures.

Tavolo, the Italian word for “table,” is all about offering authentic northern Italian food in an elegant yet relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Bring your family in to gather around for a dose of Italian flair or invite your significant other out for a much-needed date night. Either way, you will be pleased. Located in the heart of Frisco in Frisco Square (next to Mattito’s), Tavolo can accommodate up to 80 guests, while adding 30 more out on the patio. The outdoor patio is situated near the sidewalk, reminiscent of bistros on the streets of Italy. The pergola, plants and quaint setting offer an alternative for when you want to enjoy the outdoors.

The restaurant exudes attention to detail. Textural elements are everywhere and work together to create an upscale, big-city, bistro feel. From the arches and chandeliers above you to the hand-laid tiles below, the décor is beautiful and well-appointed. An exposed, painted brick wall is a nice feature, offset by dark wood surrounding each side. Beautiful wallpaper, classic artwork and a variety of seating options round out the visual presentation. Nestled between two arches, the beautifully constructed bar exudes a welcoming warmth. The dark wood cabinets soar to the ceiling, filled with various wines. The classic, comfortable ambiance is further enhanced with the sounds of Frank Sinatra, the son of Italian immigrants, in the background. There is no better music than this distinctive voice to set the stage for an Italian feast.

Speaking of a feast, let’s explore the menu! Mr. Frankel was interested in bringing something unique and fresh to Frisco. Sure, there are chain restaurants, but he wanted to offer something a little different, focused on northern Italy and good wine. Mr. Frankel frequently travels to Italy, and he loves the ambience and wine, so he decided to bring a bit of Italy to our bustling city. The wine list is comprised of bubbly, whites and reds from the acclaimed Napa Valley, Sicily, Tuscany, the Russian River Valley and more. You will find the perfect pairing for your meal, by the glass or by the bottle. Do not forget about the handcrafted spirits! How about a Texas Godfather, an Old Fashioned or a Tuscan Sunset?

Executive chef Andrew Powers brings his own spin to the classics that comprise the menu. A seasoned chef, formally associated with Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and Dee Lincoln’s Steak Bar in Plano, he definitely knows his way around the kitchen, leaving satisfied customers at every turn. The staff, including the hostess, servers and bartender, are eager to make your experience at Tavolo one to remember. They are attentive to you and your family, while offering suggestions based on your likes and dislikes.

While exploring the menu, you can enjoy the complimentary bread, served with a garlic butter and olive tapenade. You can also drizzle a little of the rosemary olive oil on the bread for an additional touch. From here, it gets tougher to decide. The menu is not huge, but it covers all of the bases. From appetizers, salads and kids’ choices, to house specials, pasta dishes and pizza, you will not be disappointed. Oh, and yes, there are desserts … as in the tiramisu kind of desserts.

On the menu, you will notice that the names of each dish are in Italian. Never fear! English translations are listed below, making it easy to make your choices. Having the actual names in Italian provides a nice touch, adding another layer to the authentic feel of your dining experience.

For starters, try the Calamari Fritti. It is a generous portion, nicely plated, with plenty of dipping sauce. The cherry peppers mixed in are a nice, surprising touch. Another popular choice is the Salumi E Formaggio. This assortment of dried and cured meats and cheeses, Kalamata olives, whole-grain mustard and ciabatta crostini is a classic way to begin your meal. You could also try a variety of other options, including spinach dip, mussels and polenta wedges. Oh, and who can forget the bruschetta?

If you are interested in something on the lighter side, try one of the four salads. The classic Caesar features house-made croutons and parmesan crisps, while the Insalata Verde Con Fragole brings fresh strawberries, candied walnuts and gorgonzola to new heights. You can always add grilled chicken, grilled Norwegian salmon, grilled jumbo shrimp or grilled sausage to any salad for an added punch of protein. Yum!

The specialty dishes are just that … something special. Each dish is expertly prepared and served with perfectly-matched, inspired side dishes. Choose from salmon, veal, chicken with prosciutto, grilled hanger steak or pan-fried chicken breast. Each plating is a work of art, showcasing Chef Powers’ pride in the preparation and presentation. Two customer favorites are the Saltimbocca Di Pollo, featuring chicken roulade, sliced prosciutto, baby spinach and creamy potatoes, and the Bistecca Con Patate Fritte, a succulent grilled hanger steak, crispy potatoes, sautéed spinach and a balsamic demi glaze.  

As if the 11 pasta dishes on the menu were not enough of a choice, each night, the chef prepares an additional pasta special. Words like “ricotta,” “pecorino,” “roasted garlic,” “toasted pine nuts,” “vodka,” “bolognese” and “pancetta” floating around words like “penne,” “linguini,” “lasagna” and “spaghettini” meld together in ways that are truly Italy-inspired. Suffice it to say that these pasta combinations will stimulate your senses and make your mouth water. The Lasagna Alla Bolognese is a family recipe from Chef Powers. It is a house-made bolognese, besciamella, pork sausage and mozzarella. There is something a little extra in here, I am sure, based on the unique flavor! Another favorite is the Cacio E Pepe E Tartufi (English translation: penne pasta, black pepper, pecorino Romano cheese, black truffles and Cipollini onions).

“If you have been in and tried everything you like and would like for me to make something special for you, just talk to me. I can create something for you,” says Chef Powers. The freedom to create is one benefit of having an experienced chef running a locally-owned restaurant verses a chain restaurant. The chef is often out talking to guests, making sure everyone is enjoying their meals and adding to the overall ambience and dining experience.

If you are looking for pizza, you will not be disappointed, but keep in mind that this is a northern Italian inspired restaurant, and therefore, not your typical, chain-style variety pizza. The pizzas have a more sophisticated slant, but kids, as well as adults, find them to be winners. There are five choices here, ranging from classic standards like Margherita, Pepperoni and La Prosciutto, to options with a little more flair, like the La Toscana or Gran Paradiso. The La Toscana features roasted Cipollini onions, Italian sausage, banana peppers, Pomodoro di San Marzano, mozzarella and baby arugula, while the Gran Paradiso has black truffle cream, toasted pine nuts, proscutto di parma, Cambozola, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. Also on the menu, for kids under the age of 12, you will find spaghetti, grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese. One of these is always a hit!

The choices for desserts are Italian classics like tiramisu with chocolate espresso beans, cheesecake with sugar brulee and Italian cream cake with strawberry puree. Yes, please.

Since opening in January of 2016, Tavolo has made a name for itself. “My husband, Dustin, and I discovered this restaurant after moving to Prosper, while looking for a place with its own special feel that was not part of a chain restaurant. We have since returned, several times, to have the lasagna and we have tried the Saltimbocco di Pollo, which is out of this world! Tavolo Italia has quickly become our place to unwind and catch up on Friday nights. I highly recommend it! We consider this place our little gem and hope it continues to thrive,” diner Jana Knight shares.

Tavolo has proven to not only be a comfortable place to share good food, wine and conversation around the table with family and friends, but a romantic getaway for couples to reconnect after a long work day. Good wine and spirits served alongside thoughtfully prepared Italian dishes in an upscale atmosphere is just the kind of venue Frisco has been missing. With many choices of standard chains at every corner, it is refreshing to experience something as different and special as Tavolo. Delizioso!

Tavolo Italia is located at 6129 Main Street in Frisco Square. To check out a menu or plan your dining experience ahead of time, visit the restaurant’s website at tavoloitalia.com.