Where to Eat in St. John's, Newfoundland: Tavola

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Dec 12, 2015 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Sometimes the unexpected brings the greatest joy. One of the best meals I had in St. John's, Newfoundland this summer was at Tavola. It was at a meal hosted by Destination St. John's (thank you!), and since I hadn't done any restaurant research before coming to Newfoundland, I didn't know what to expect. But as with all the meals we ate in St. John's, I was delighted and surprised by the excellent food, warm interior, and great conversation.

Where to Eat in St. John's, Newfoundland: Tavola

Where to Eat in St. John's, Newfoundland: Tavola

Where to Eat in St. John's, Newfoundland: Tavola

Nestled in the storefronts on Water Street, downtown St. John's hopping center (and at all hours!), Tavola is a gem. It's full of warm colors, features fresh, seasonal, local ingredients, and offers an array of Mediterranean dishes. In Italian, Tavola is the kitchen table. This restaurant? It's like going to your bestie's fabulous uncle's house - the one that knows good food, and loves to share it. In this case, my bestie is St. John's, and the fabulous uncle? Well, read on...

Where to Eat in St. John's, Newfoundland: Tavola

Where to Eat in St. John's, Newfoundland: Tavola

We started with a warm zucchini noodle salad, which was dressed with local herbs and yogurt dressing. GENIUS.

Warm zucchini noodle salad at Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

The second course was incredible - a delicious slice of halibut, plated with salad and a citrus vinaigrette.

Halibut - a fantastic dish at Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

But the third course was what I'd been waiting for. When I saw it on the menu, a squeal of glee may or may not have escaped me. I'd first tasted it a few days before, at Food Day Canada. In Newfoundland, the event was held at the Sheraton by RANL, the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, and an enormous ballroom was filled with chefs and foodies like me. We wandered around to each station, tasting the best of Canadian cuisine. Story to come! But the last dish I tasted - and the one that I wished I'd had room for more of, was THIS:

BBQ Smoked pork shoulder with Newfoundland Molasses Baked Beans, a roll of crispy chicarron, and a swoosh of arugula puree. 

BBQ Smoked pork shoulder with Newfoundland Molasses Baked Beans, a roll of crispy chicarron, and a swoosh of arugula puree.  Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

Now, let me tell you why this is so amazing. First, Newfoundland is known for its baked beans. And, as a midwesterner, I can attest to the nourishing properties of baked beans, especially in the cold winters, but also for fun in the summer. These baked beans? The absolute best I've ever eaten. A humble dish, elevated to the stars. So. You can pause for a minute to dream of these beans (and book your ticket to Newfoundland. You're welcome). Now, I must mention (because my brother is a firefighter, and you know how they love food and work hard on bbq dishes) the bbq smoked pork shoulder. There were crispy bits. The kind you long for, covet when someone else is pulling the pork, snitch when you're pulling the pork, guard with a fork when there are poachers about. LOTS of crispy bits. Any restaurant that serves this? Immediately in my favorites list. Tavola on that list? CHECK.

Crispy bits! BBQ Smoked pork shoulder with Newfoundland Molasses Baked Beans, a roll of crispy chicarron, and a swoosh of arugula puree.  Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

Look! Crispy bits!

While I was pretty full, I will be honest - the dessert of homeade chocolate bark was welcome. Because chocolate. 

Chocolate bark for dessert at Tavola, St John's, Newfoundland

Before these tidbits of deliciousness were eaten...

The food here? It was amazing. Everyone that has ever been there will concur. It's definitely one of the places you must eat at when you visit St. John's - go for the fresh pasta and caught-that-day fish, stay for dessert, relaxation, and conviviality. The kitchen staff is superb, the waitstaff feels like family when you're done eating. 

Our chef at Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

The master behind our extraordinary meal

Waitstaff that feels like family at Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

Oh, our waitress - and a new friend

Wine selection at Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

Pick your poison...

Locally-produced rum at Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

Locally produced rum - LOTS of it!

But let me tell you what makes Tavola extra special - and this is something you will discover everywhere you turn in Newfoundland - a story.

Tavola is owned by local businessman, writer, philanthropist, entrepreneur - and famous musician - Bob Hallett. He's part of Great Big Sea, which has eleven gold and platinum records, and has performed all over the world. His travels, especially in Italy, influence his restaurant, from the colors to the food to the vibe. I was delighted to find such beautiful, tasty Mediterranean food at a cozy bistro this side of the Atlantic. 

I was even more delighted to sit across from Bob at our lunch, and learn about growing up in Newfoundland, fishing, what a halibut actually looks like (and how big they are!), family travel and Italy, wine (Gretzky! Support Canadian wines - they are delicious!), and a bit of music. He's so friendly, warm, and interesting - just like his restaurant. 

Wayne Gretzky wine at Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

We also discussed food in Newfoundland - including fish (an ever-present topic, on an island), buying local, and being part of the Newfoundland food movement, spearheaded by many chefs around the province and Nancy Brace at RANL, and working on fresh, local, seasonal food and supporting local farmers, creative chefs, and imaginative restaurants.

This is one restaurant I love, and highly recommend.

It's not only for the great food, and the welcoming atmosphere, but also for the mission and purpose and amazing chefs and, of course, the story - that of a world traveler who comes home and is part of the community, bringing a global influence whilst making a home, family, and business.

Myself and Bob Hallett of Great Big Sea, at his restaurant, Tavola, in St. John's, Newfoundland

Myself and the storyteller, Bob Hallett

Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

Oh, the site of so many amazing meals...

 

Tavola Restaurant and Wine Bar
178 Water Street
St. John's, Newfoundland
709-754-1678

http://www.tavolaonwater.ca/

 

Tavola, St. John's, Newfoundland

 

 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Wandering Educators

 

Share