Reviewer's notebook: Tavolo and Sanette’s Karoo Kafe

Much more than pizza in Dorchester, and South African delights in Provincetown
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  September 13, 2010

JUST ENOUGH SALT: Tavolo has grown from a neighborhood pizza joint to a full-fledged gastropub. The chicken picatta is served with a caper sauce that is just salty enough.

Tavolo snuck under my radar because Chris Douglass, then well-known for Icarus, had made his first Dorchester move with Ashmont Grill, an admitted bistro. Tavolo, three years later, was supposed to be the little neighborhood pizza place down the street. But when I dropped in this summer, the space had been renovated into a large bar/restaurant with retro décor, and the menu had all kinds of entrées, multiple pastas, desserts, and appetizers.

Tavolo| 1918 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester | 617.822.1918 | Open daily 5 pm–1 am | Off-street parking | Full bar | Sidewalk level access | AE, MC, VI

Sanette’s Karoo Kafe| 338 Commercial Street, Provincetown | 508.487.6630 |  Open daily, 11 am–9 pm

I'm with the program as I sit down and the server parks a carafe of ice water on the table with crusty white bread and a pour of olive oil. What's that in the olive oil? Salt and pepper, and they just bring out the oil's best qualities. This is a full-tilt trattoria/bistro/gastropub.

And it's locovore. My appetizer was "heirloom tomato soup" ($6) with genuine black cherry tomatoes sliced as a garnish, and rich creamy soup base that will ruin Campbell's for even the most nostalgic. Chicken picatta ($18) is a breaded chicken cutlet, gorgeous if unconventional, with a caper sauce that was — and hardly anyone gets this right — not overly salty. It's served with "farm potatoes" the size of large marbles and "farm beans," extra-fresh snap beans (but not the Romano or Blue Lake types with their distinctive flavors that we are getting in the better farmer's markets).

Tavolo has stayed simple on desserts, offering one or two choices and gelati. I had limoncello pound cake ($6), which was a good, heavy cake, lightly treated with lemon-flavored liqueur, with a thin layer of sweetened ricotta studded with lemon zest. Downtown, you'd pay twice as much.

The beers aren't up to current gastropub standards, but there are a few for the brew geeks. The wine list is mostly Italian, and I had a fine glass (large glassware, too) of 2008 Scaglioli barbera "Mati" ($9/glass; $36/bottle), a non-appellation blend designed for early drinking with mostly steel-tank wines, and just a little oak-aged. The aroma was wonderfully full, like a young Bordeaux, and it was soft and ready on the palate. Clever, modern winemaking, a good selection for this food. With some of the red-sauce dishes or pizza, one might actually move up to more traditional barbara with more acidity.

Dining alone, I had a seat with a good view of the Red Sox. Tavolo has just enough TV sets, relatively small ones, to track a baseball game without actually watching it. Background music is funk jazz.

Sanette's Karoo Kafe
I don't often review in Provincetown, because it's too far to drive and most restaurants are seasonal, and turn over the entire staff from year to year. For example, since 2006, Babe's (on 6A in North Truro, next town down) has had remarkably good food of the Middle East and North Africa made by chef-owner Peter Thrasher. But will that happen next year? Who knows?

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Related: Restaurante Montecristo, El Pelón Taquería, La Galleria 33, More more >
  Topics: Restaurant Reviews , Chris Douglass, bistro, CULTURE,  More more >
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