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Tavola Barone, Robbinsville NJ

My companion and I realized a little while ago that this new place with a familiar name popped up in Robbinsville. Being very near by our house we had to check it out. The rumored back story is that the family originally owned our beloved Villa Barone on the corner of Route 130 and Route 526, but had some time ago sold it to someone else who is now running it (and still doing a fabulous job I might add as it is one of our favorite local joints). Now the Barone's have opened up a little ways down the street at Tavola Barone. It is an unassuming location, in a small strip mall with a liquor store (mighty convenient for this BYOB). But upon entering you a transported to a lovely rustic looking kitchen. The stone work is lovely and the place really feels like home.

We were greeted quickly and only waited a short time for a table. The place was pretty busy, a good sign for a Saturday night. Service was somewhat slow, we only saw 2, maybe three servers in the whole place. But they certainly made up for it with a smile and lots of apologies.  Our waitress was extremely nice and we really felt for her as she ran from table to table doing her best to make sure all her guests were well cared for. Once she opened our wine, we didn't really mind waiting, we were just enjoying a nice Italian red and checking out the menu.

Once we had heard the specials and ordered we kept seeing the other waiter coming by and checking up on our waitress. At first I found it annoying, like he was only asking us because he thought she was doing a bad job, but as the night went on I think he was really trying to help her out.

We were given a plat of cheese bread to start. This was no ordinary, complementary bread, this was special. It was soft, warm, delicious bread topped with a creamy, tasty cheese sauce. It was so good, a little messy, but so good. We started with an appetizer, which was the Polplette, or giant Italian meatball. These things were huge, they come two to a serving and are accompanied by a huge glob of ricotta cheese. So amazing. Next up were salads, which I am always so impressed by a restaurant that includes a salad with your entree. These were also very good, a nice mixed green salad with onion and tomato and a really good lemon vinaigrette.

Next up, entrees. Of course Tavola Barone has additions to the menu! And as usual at least one of us was tempted by the specials! I stuck with a menu item because it sounded so good and I was totally in the mood for it, homemade gnocchi with pork ragu. My companion was tempted by the specials and ordered a seafood fra diavolo risotto. I'll give you a minute to absorb that. Yes, not often do you see risotto with a red sauce let alone the spicy fra diavolo, my companion could not resist. Especially since (now hold on to your seats) it came with a half a lobster tail. Yes, that's right folks. Which is why we weren't too shocked when the bill came and his special was significantly more than my menu item. I will tell you that the menu items are very reasonably priced. And while the risotto special was a lot more (like more than twice the price) than my entree, it was a special and it had a ton of seafood in it, not to mention lobster, so we agreed it was worth it.

They were both delicious and huge, we both took leftovers home. Our meals came out in giant bowls that I would use to serve food family style to guests. :) Things had not slowed down when it came time for our entrees, our waitress had new tables, some people having dessert and some wanting their check.  There was a slight mix up with my entree, at first she served me a different gnocchi that was one of the specials, it had shrimp, it looked great, but I nicely informed her it was not what I ordered. It turns out the people behind us had ordered it and I think there was a mix up in the kitchen about how many special gnocchi and regular gnocchi were needed. In the end it all worked out and everyone got the right dish. As I said, our food was excellent. My gnocchi were soft and pillow like and the pork ragu was full of flavor, lots of tender pieces of pork in a rich tomato sauce. My companion's seafood was all fresh and his fra diavolo was perfectly spicy.

Since we were boxing up the rest of our meal, we didn't really have room for dessert so we skipped it (I know you aren't shocked). We paid up and had lovely conversation with our waitress, thanked the owner and assured all that we'd be back. Tavola Barone is so close by, it is definitely going to be added to our local rotation.

Check them out for yourself, you won't be sorry. And if you forgot your wine, check out the liquor store next door!

1179 Route 130 North, Robbinsville, New Jersey


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