First Look: La Tavola

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

Just a few weeks after reopening La Tavola in Grandview, chef and owner Rick Lopez looks relaxed and content. Working in the kitchen of the third incarnation of his simple Italian eatery is like coming back home, he confesses.

La Tavola opened quietly last month on First Avenue in Grandview, across the street from the Grandview Public Library. But that didn't stop devout La Tavola regulars from finding it. In the first week, Lopez says the restaurant was flooded with diners from Powell and Dublin who'd loved the first two locations-the small and casual original spot in Powell, and then the larger more open version on Riverside Drive in Dublin. After the latter closed, Lopez and his wife Krista, opened Knead in the Short North; they shuttered the urban diner concept just last month.

The new La Tavola shows great promise to become a casual and homey neighborhood Italian eatery. Heavy on reclaimed wood (used to make tables, booths and wainscoting) and bright green and yellow flowery wallpaper, there's a grandma's house feel to this place. That's intentional, says Lopez, who pulls dish inspiration from his Italian roots and travels, like welcoming diners with a complimentary roasted veggie farro salad.

On the menu, you'll find carryovers from La Tavolas before, plus a few new dishes. The menu is divided into antipasti, pizza, pastas and entrees, plus a handful of sides and a kids menu. Stop by on Sundays for a more casual, family-style affair when Rick deviates from the menu to make Italian casserole-style dishes (think lasagna or meatballs) for a set price.

Look to the chalkboard above the open kitchen for daily specials and rotating desserts (the latter made by Rick's wife, Krista, who also bakes the restaurant's breads).

A few highlights from our first meal:

The Prosciutto Crostini ($12) was a great way to start. Paper-thin and salty prosciutto arrives atop crispy and pleasantly sour house-made garlic toast. An accompanying apricot and almond chutney was killer, rounding out the dish with a little sweet nuttiness.

A favorite from the original location, Tortelloni En Brodo ($14 single portion/$26 sharing portion) is stuffed with chicken, prosciutto, pork and greens, floating in a wonderful sage and rosemary-spiked broth you'll want to capture in the lips of the rolled pasta.

Beef Ragu Pasta ($14 single portion/$26 sharing portion) mixed tender short ribs with a rich, yet welcomed acidic bite, tomato sauce with pasta.