Restaurants & Bars

Tavolo, N. Long Branch

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Restaurants & Bars 5

Tavolo, N. Long Branch

Deb Van D | Aug 28, 2003 12:32 PM

Dinner at Tavolo on Saturday with friends was an interesting experience. The food was very good. We shared starters of grilled eggplant with roasted tomatoes and mozzarella and lively dish of shaved fennel with parmesan, lemon zest and olive oil. My friend remarked that it would an interesting vehicle for preserved lemon. Our antipasti were pasta fagioli with broccoli rabe and buccatini amatriciana with pancetta and pecorino, both very enjoyable. Secondi included halibut with onion, capers and linguine, Maine salmon with a similar preparation, and sole with lemon, capers and asparagus, and something my cryptic notes describe as "crquet." Darned if I can unravel that. We voted the halibut our favorite of the three. We ordered several things in twos and asked that they be plated for three, and we were accommodated pleasantly.

Some service missteps compromised the experience somewhat. With a reservation in a room that had empty tables when we arrived and when we left, we were seated next to the hostess station, a very trafficky area. We asked for another table, and the hostette was reluctant, "didn't think, wasn't sure, would have to check..." We were seated finally at only a slightly less obnoxious table. Our waitress was sweet and capable, but there were timing errors. For example, our pastas came out before we had finished our starters. We asked that they be taken back, and they were, but it was not ideal. It is a small matter but notable to us that our used flatware was taken from our finished plates and returned to our table instead of being replaced.

The ambience of Tavolo is jarring. The acoustics are wicked, the room deafening at times, and the perimeter décor, punctuated with pastels of the same Naked Lady in different poses, seemed like a real Dining Room Don't. It was unclear what appetite they were trying to induce or suppress designwise, but it sure didn't work for me. The entrances are puzzling (which I remember from when this place was Mumford's). The entrance closest to the parking lot will take you into the guts and bustle of the operation, where you will be waved enthusiastically in, but will have climb the stairs dodging bussers with trays of glassware en route.

Overall, the food made it worthwhile and I will go back. It is a relatively new operation (although with an experienced restaurateur), and they may not yet have hit their stride.

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