Last week I shared with you my first visit to the incredible artisan market Crompton Collective. That outing was part of a reunion weekend with my college girls, which also included some epic meals. The same day we went to Crompton, we also dined at a delicious Italian restaurant called Tavolino.
The location we visited was in Westborough, MA. While you may not have an occasion to be out that far west, you are likely to stumble across Tavolino's second location, which is in Patriot Place in Foxoboro, MA. I've actually dined at both locations before, but this was the first time I whipped out the camera.
The Westborough location is just off the rotary in the center of town and has a huge parking lot, so it's easy to find a spot and hop right out.
When you open the doors to the restaurant you step onto their funky tile floor. If you click on their website, you'll notice a similar image of the floor is the background to their homepage.
We were seated in a cozy booth in the bar area. Our bubbly waitress came over to hand us menus and we got right down to business - cocktails.
Two of the girls ordered the Grapefruit Basiltini which was Deep Eddy Ruby Grapefruit vodka, basil leaves, agave nectar and a splash of grapefruit juice. The coolest thing about the way Tavolino serves cocktails is that they bring the drink to you 75% of the way full and they also bring a small glass carafe for you to refill it!
I had a sip of one of the grapefruit cocktails and it tastes exactly as the name promises, of tart and sweet citrus.
Next to me a friend had ordered a dirty martini, which she described as, "made perfectly." She too received a refill bottle.
Another friend toasted with the Sparkling Pear, which was Grey Goose L'Poire vodka, agave nectar, St. Elder Flower Liqueur and prosecco, garnished with a paper thin slice of pear. The bubbles made it feel so festive.
I took a swig from her flute and the drink mostly tasted of the Elderflower.
For my drink, I selected the Sicilian Sipper, which was Aviation Gin, Villa Massa Limoncello, tonic and fresh lemon.
I completely understand why they called it a Sipper, because it is so easy to sip (and make it disappear!). It has a simple lemon taste, sort of like a lightly spiked lemonade.
Once everyone had a cocktail in hand, our waitress brought over a basket of bread with oil for dipping. The bread and oil combo reminded me of the bread you get at Not Your Average Joe's.
This bread had a crunchy crust and a doughy center (just the way I like it) and the oil was tasty.
For a starter, the girls shared the crispy fried calamari, which smelled heavenly when it arrived to the table. It was an enormous portion.
Right away my eyes zeroed in on the pieces with tentacles. I've been a vegetarian for 18 years and few things freak me out, but tentacles are one of them.
After several bites, I asked what they thought of the dish. One friend said, "It's not the best calamari I've ever had." Another chimed in, "I wanted it to be crispier and less oily." A third added, "I did love that they fried the hot peppers too. However, I wanted some heat from the aioli, but it was nothing special."
Also during the starter round, two of the girls ordered the soup special which was cream of pickle soup. I'd never heard of such a thing!
When it arrived, I was so curious that I had to have a spoonful. It was shockingly yummy! It had a rich vegetable flavor, almost like a Minestrone. It was really fantastic when you dunked in a piece of the crusty bread.
In the entree round, the friend sitting to my left ordered the roasted beet salad which came with candied walnuts, orange slices, warm goat cheese and mixed greens, dressed in a cranberry vinaigrette.
After several forkfuls, I asked for her comments. She replied, "I wanted the goat cheese to be warm. The candied walnuts tasted just ok, they actually tasted toasted, not candied. I did like the burst of citrus from the orange, but overall, I wouldn't order it again."
Next to her, a friend was enjoying the wild boar. This dish is actually an appetizer. The boar is slow-braised in Chianti and served over parmesan gnocchi.
She explained to me, "This dish was actually quite large for an appetizer. It was very tasty, but I normally like my pasta dishes on the more savory side. This had a strong nutmeg flavor, which made it feel more like a sweet, Christmas time dish."
The next seat over, a friend was digging into prosciutto and mushroom boscaiola which was served with, of course, prosciutto and mushrooms, plus tomatoes and peas over penne, in a light marsala cream sauce.
She said, "This dish had a really nice combination of flavors. The cream sauce wasn't too heavy and the portion size was perfect."
At the far end of the table, a friend ordered one of the evening's specials, mushroom orecchiette. The pasta and 'shrooms were tossed with parmesan, garlic, parsley and white truffle oil.
For my entree, I went with something simple - eggplant parmesan. I hardly ever order eggplant parm in restaurants because it always feels too heavy. Tavolino's version was surprisingly light and the eggplant was awesome. It had just the right amount of breading, you could still really taste the eggplant and the ratio of eggplant to sauce to cheese was excellent. The spaghetti underneath was nothing special, but I was really more concerned with the eggplant.
With the entree plates cleared, our waitress asked if we'd be interested in any dessert. Though I am confident their dessert offerings would be delicious, we knew we had homemade apple crisp waiting for us back at the house, so we passed.
I really do love Tavolino. This was my third time dining there and the whole experience is always top notch - the ambience, the service, the cocktails and the food. Every now and then you get a dish that doesn't match the rest, but that's common.
Have you ever been to Tavolino? Do you have a favorite, go-to dish?