Thursday, October 10, 2013

Like a Trip to Sicily, La Tavola Italiana Ristorante

Like a Trip to Sicily, La Tavola Italiana Ristorante

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

I first discovered La Tavola Italiana in 1999 when half of it was a pizza shop and Mama Giaramita was still alive.  What a place then. I owned a limousine business and it was a great place to get a late bite and take my limo clients when they wanted to eat. My clients were always delighted.   It is owned and completely run by an Italian family from Sicily.  My father’s parents were from Sicily and I was excited so we became fast friends.  They were the first Sicilian family that I had met in Pittsburgh.  It wasn’t hard for guests to become part of their family, Joe and Carmella would walk through the restaurant on brief breaks from creating amazing pizza and home cooked and “gourmet” Italian meals, to ask about your children and perhaps have a sip of your wine at your table, often bringing some of their own that guests had brought them.  There is still no liquor license and one of the charms is that the restaurant is BYOB.  Many nights after the restaurant closed several of us would sit around sometimes until 3 AM drinking wine, trying out one of Carmella’s new dishes and just “shooting the breeze.”

Carnella at one of her famous buffets
Well it is  fourteen years later, we are all older and don’t keep the late hours anymore and since PPLMag   So I am not as frequent a client although I consider the Giaramita family some of my most wonderful friends.  When my father passed away Carmella called me up and said "I want to send something for the family, stop by before you leave and pick it up."   She had made two large trays of chicken parmigiana filled with her signature marinara and lots of love. The La Monica family never forgot that and neither have many of her clients because Carmella, Joe, Jolina, Giovanna, Gabriella and Antonio are known for their love of their  guests and turning them into family. 
has expanded so rapidly, often I am dining in town before reviewing a show so that I can get parking without having to walk eighteen blocks.

The love is still there and it all goes into Carmella and Joe’s food, Joe running the much smaller pizza operation out of the back of the restaurant, always busy but there is no longer that little pizza store on the side of the restaurant where guests could come over and sit to talk to mama or solitary guests could have dinner with her because La Tavola needed the space but the friendly atmosphere that allows you to lean over from one table to the next and get to know your fellow diners is still there.

Happy customers add to any party!
I celebrated my birthday with my family there last Saturday.  My older son and his fiancĂ© asked where I wanted to go and I said, La Tavola.  I haven’t been there in so long. Well I must tell you, Carmella still makes the absolute best garlic laden marinara sauce in the city.  My sister in law risked a family argument by telling her husband, my brother that Carmella’s sauce was better than his.  The marguerita pizza and calamari   There is a tie between La Tavola and one other restaurant in the city for the best garlic bread.  The difference is that Joe still bakes his own bread and makes his own pizza dough.  And bar none for the healthy dieter and the gourmet they make the absolute best eggplant parmigiana possibly in the state.  No it is not deep fried with lots of carb coatings.  It is lightly breaded and pan seared in olive oil then covered with the freshest homemade marinara sauce and sprinkled lightly with buffalo mozzarella.  It is not drowned with sauce or encrusted with cheese but the taste is impeccable and it’s light enough to be heart healthy.
fritte is still fresh and amazing.

My sister in law said that the lamb chops were “finger licking” good.  My nephew Josh who is a pretty good Italian cook himself could not sing enough praise for the duck ravioli.  My son was amazed that the frutti de mara, (pasta with seafood) had not changed since we have been patronizing La Tavola.  My brother, Joe, the sauce maker, could not get past the appetizers so he had stuffed banana peppers and greens and beans and for a guy who is very opinionated about his own cooking had no complaints. My sons fiance loved the shrimp Alfredo and my five year old daughter just adored eating from everyone else's plates.

Giaramita family at a home party
We were all so stuffed but still ordered  the signature "dolce amore" dessert and passed it around.  It is made of their famous chocolate sponge cake with a dollop of some special chocolate cream which she refuses to reveal the recipe for and then draped with three kinds of berries in sauce and topped with freshly whipped cream.  Of course Carmella also features fresh tiramisu and home made canola.

One thing you must know is that oldest daughter Jolena works in the kitchen
Jolina, beautiful  chef
with her mom and has learned all of mom's recipes and added some amazing nouveau cuisine of her own which is featured in the specials.

So we ate to our hearts content in what could have been our grandmother’s Italian kitchen, visited with the staff who knew us by our first names, visited briefly with Carmella, Joe and their son Antonio on a busy Saturday night and drank a little wine with good conversation.  And for a moment were transported back to Sicilia at the La Tavola Italiana Ristorante without leaving Mount Washington.

La Tavola is located at 1 Boggs Ave and until someone builds another house across the street you can still   It is not Grandview Avenue but the view of smiling faces inside and the tasty and picturesque presentation of the cuisine is view and taste enough for the gourmand in you.
see a small view of the city.

For those of you who want to learn to cook at home, have a chef’s tasting or an event, Carmella has opened Carmella’s Kitchen which always has something  wonderful going on. 

Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster, blogger, author and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher. Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the “Get Your Google On” Gal. But better known as Techno Granny™ to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide. Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers. PPL Mag is Pittsburgh’s First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities. 

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