Tag Archives: kid friendly

Critabianca, Cutrofiano

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During the second half of our time in Puglia, we stayed in a farmhouse (“masseria”) in the small town of Cutrofiano.  Set on seven acres and built in the 1700s, Critabianca has been beautifully restored by a delightful family from Torino and opened it’s doors in 2016.

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Throughout Puglia several masserie were built in the 1700s, often by the wealthy and arisocrats.  Over time, many were abandoned.  But with the growth of tourism in Puglia, many have been restored and turned into boutique bed and breakfast accommodation. What I loved about Critabianca was that it felt private and tranquil, yet it is cleverly located making it an easy drive to much of what we wanted to do and see. And Roberto, Roberta, Nicoletta and Alessandro will do everything possible to make sure you have a lovely stay. How gorgeous is the front door!

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The six rooms feel tranquil and luxurious with lovely antique pieces throughout mingling with modern requirements.  You can see hints of the original frescoes on the carefully scraped back walls.  Our family room (note children over 11 years only) was very spacious and comfortable, with a large outdoor terrace. And the pool was great for a refreshing dip after our days of sightseeing and exploring.

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Around the pretty grounds, you’ll find plums and figs, which Roberta turns into gorgeous jams for breakfast, and plenty of olive trees.   Breakfast is served in an outdoor courtyard on beautiful locally made ceramics. As well as making the jam, Roberta sets her own yoghurt, and Roberto is a dab hand at focaccia and cakes. The bread, cheese and eggs are from down the road, and I also had some of the best ricotta I’ve ever tasted. One morning we devoured a juicy melon, and not long after we saw Moussa, the cook, go out to the garden and grab another one.  Yes, the breakfast is about as fresh as it gets.

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Cutrofiano town itself is small, but on Wednesdays there is a good size local market with food, homewares and clothes.   You could put together a nice lunch.  The olive guy, bread and cheese guy were doing a roaring trade, and in another truck the chooks being slowly roasted smelt delicious.

Having seen a taste of beautiful ceramics in Grottaglie, I’d heard that in Cutrofiano town there was a large ceramics studio called Fratelli Coli.  And this is where much of Critabianca’s ceramics at the breakfast table are sourced.  There are huge outdoor pots and lots of beautiful homewares (I tried to take some photos inside but they said no).  We bought some fantastic oversized coffee mugs here, some small trays and the Small People also bought Pomi, the Puglian good luck charm.

We really enjoyed our stay here with this lovely family.

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Critabianca, Cutrofiano http://critabianca.com/en/
Fratelli Coli, Cutrofiano https://www.coliweb.com/en-gb/home

Foogoo, Lane Cove

(August 2018) Lane Cove food is on the up.  There’s been a spate of new openings in the last twelve months, prompting even the likes of Terry Durack to venture to this side of the bridge.  Foogoo, a modern Chinese diner, is among them and we’re here to exchange some post Europe travel stories with some friends.  A rustic style clock with French text gives away the venue’s previous incarnation, and it’s simply but pleasantly decked out.

And as we marvel with our friends over the fact that we bumped into each other in the Vatican, where some 25,000 people set foot each day, we enjoy some very tasty Chinese.  The ingredients are very obviously fresh, the quality good, and the service quite pleasant.  And we love that it is BYO. Pricing was very reasonable, though the serves are on the smaller side and we could have ordered a couple more dishes for our bottomless pit Small People, but even then it’s a good value meal and you can eat here for $30 a head or less.

The crispy soft shell crab is exactly that and not at all oily as it often is at many restaurants.  The chilli and lemon salt give it a lovely flavour.

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And we were very happy with our soupy xialongbao.  There are plenty of dumplings on the menu if you’re in the mood for pure yum cha.

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Also on the menu:
Delicately steamed barramundi with ginger and shallot

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Kung pao chicken with a pleasant but not overpowering amount of heat

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Wok fried black pepper fillet with oyster mushrooms and blackbean – I loved this

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We all really liked the Shanghai style dry noodle with shallot oil, sweet soy and crispy shrimp

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And there was a good amount of tasty BBQ pork in the special fried rice.

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The steamed Asian greens were so fresh.

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It’s a good addition to the ‘hood, and we’ll be back to try the rest of the menu.

Foogoo, 94B Longueville Road Lane Cove, Ph (02) 7900 7081

Devon Café, North Sydney

I had heard good things about Devon in Surry Hills for the longest time, but never managed to get there.  But now I don’t have to, as they have – wisely! – crossed the bridge. North Sydney, for a long time a concrete jungle ghost town outside of 9 to 5,  is slowly but surely coming to life with the spate of new apartments, and places like Devon are well placed for this.  Unlike Surry Hills, the northern sibling is also open for dinner.

On a few visits, I’ve made my way through tasting a fair bit of the unique breakfast/brunch menu – with help from the Marito, Small People, and friends, I didn’t eat this all myself!  There are a lot of bold and gutsy flavours, not much shyness here.  And I love the generosity of their serves, none of this teensy tiny business. A breakfast here accompanied by one of their good cups of coffee and I’m full for the day,

The Marito was a big fan of the Devon Fish Cake and had it two visits in a row – the cake was salmon and potato with a nice crisp to the outside, served with a poached egg, a full bodied yuzu aioli and a watercress and cabbage slaw.

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Salmon is on show again with “Breakfast with the Sakumas” (named after the politician I’m guessing?) – salmon grilled with miso, an eel croquette, a 63 degree egg, radish and kewpi mayonnaise. Delicious but very rich.

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The Croissant St Denis is pure morning indulgence.  An omelette with lobster, prawn and caviar, served with a very punchy seafood bisque.  Soak up the bisque with the flaky, buttery croissant and you’ll have a very good day indeed.

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Get some pork on your fork with Piggy Banc –  free range pork belly,  pork + fennel sausage, hasselback potato, roast fennel and peas

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If it’s something of the more “straight up” variety you’re after, that is not an issue.  Good old scrambled and fried eggs are on offer, and they are huge – they even satisfied my bottomless pit Small People.

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Plenty to choose from on the lunch menu too.  I love the playful take on Italian in the name of “ragu alla Sichuanese” – coriander tagliolini, chilli mince pork, peanuts, burrata, slow cooked egg. Silky noodles with a good kick.

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For something lighter try the poke bowl, and again a very generous serve. Sashimi king salmon, brown rice, avocado (get your mortgage in order), salmon caviar, seaweed, edamame beans, cucumber and kale
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Devon Café North Sydney, 36 Blue St North Sydney. Ph 02 8971 0377

http://www.devoncafe.com.au

Mama’s Buoi, Tramsheds

I’ve been to Tramsheds a number of times since it opened.  The variety of cuisines is good, parking is easy, and you can finish off any visit with a gelato from Messina!

I’ve been to Mama’s Buoi in Crows Nest, and enjoyed it. The menu at the three Sydney venues differs slightly and I liked the look of some of the Tramshed dishes (the Small People are also getting into Vietnamese), so off we went.

As you’d expect with Vietnamese there are lots of herbs, lots of vegetables, a bit of spice.  Service was efficient if not particularly friendly.  The pricing is also very reasonable for the serving size. My picks were the duck pancakes, the salt and pepper squid, and the fragrant beef with the greens.

Pulled Duck Pancake with pineapple, pickled carrots, mixed herbs & honey

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Vietnamese salt & pepper squid with Mama’s secret spices

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Marinated Chicken Skewers with pickled vegetables, lettuce cups & nước mắm sauc

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Crispy Fried Soft Shell Crab with a green papaya salad

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Mama’s Beef Stir Fry with lemongrass, Asian broccoli, chilli & oyster sauce

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Wok Tossed Seafood with lemongrass, tiger prawns, squid and ling

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Ginger chicken stir fry with onion, shiitake mushrooms, green shallots, sesame oil and oyster sauce

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Special Crab Fried Rice with onion, coriander, fried egg & lime dressing

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For other Tramsheds visits, have a look at Flour Eggs Water and Osaka Trading Co.

Mama’s Buoi, Tramsheds Ph 02 9952 1638
http://www.mamasbuoi.com.au

Toshiya, Cremorne

I’ve loved seeing the palate of the Small People develop over time.  With lots of exposure, and gentle encouragement, they have gotten more adventurous with their food.  While at home they usually like me to dish up the same Italian rustic favourites, when we eat out they enjoy all sorts of new flavours.  Chicken liver pate? That was interesting, mum.  Confit of duck, roast quail? Yes please.   And where a visit to Japanese once meant them ordering steamed rice and perhaps chicken karaage, now it’s miso tofu and kingfish with a ponzu dressing, and I’m lucky if they leave me a sliver of beef tataki.

So here we are at Toshiya on the busy Military Road strip, and I watch them planning to order at least half the menu; at the moment their legs seem hollow and the hunger is perpetual.   It’s a fairly standard family friendly neighbourhood Japanese, with bouts of inventiveness on the specials menu.  I watch other youngsters battling their parents for the last piece of salmon sushi.   The service is efficient, the prices reasonable and the produce fresh.  The highlight for me was the straight up sashimi, excellent quality; the lowlight duck dumplings, which didn’t taste at all like duck and were a bit meh.   The calamari was also very tasty.  A few pictures of some of what we ordered below.

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Toshiya, 283 Military Road, Cremorne, Ph 02 8969 6989
http://www.toshiya.com.au

PaRi Pasticceria, Concord

PaRi Pasticceria, named after owners Paolo and Rita, opened just after the new year. For some time now, they have wanted to share with Sydney some of the sweets they grew up with in their home town in Sicily in Italy’s south. A pretty little spot with parquetry floors and marble tables on the Concord strip, the shelves at PaRi are laden with glistening deliciousness and service comes with a smile and authentic Italian accents.

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They particularly wanted to serve traditional Sicilian granita with brioche, something you’ll find many enjoying in the piazza in Taormina in Italy during the hot Summer for breakfast. I tried the refreshing espresso granita (it usually comes with cream on top if you choose) and it’s generous enough to share. There are a few flavours to choose from, among them strawberry, almond and pistachio. The texture of granita varies from place to place in Italy, with PaRi’s version being a smoother sorbet style.

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The Marito and I both loved the brioche with the ricotta and pear compote

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The baba was lovely, one of the better ones I’ve tried in Sydney, as was the ricotta cake.

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The (Not So) Small People rated their Nutella ciambella.

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You’ll also find plenty of other traditional Sicilian sweets such as cannoli and Minne di Sant’Agata (Saint Agatha’s breasts), a sweet with ricotta, chocolate and candied fruit. In the next few weeks you’ll find a traditional Pignolata Messinese, something hard to come by down under.

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If you’re not into sweet stuff, there are arancini with ragu and vegetarian arancini (I really liked the spinach filling, next time I will try pistachio which I’ve never had before) as well as focaccia. There’s a breakfast and brunch menu and a small selection for lunch.

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PaRi Pasticceria, 83 Majors Bay Road Concord, Ph 02 9743 425
http://www.paripasticceria.com.au

PaRi Pasticceria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Carriageworks Farmers Markets, Eveleigh

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A friend and I went for a wander to the Carraigeworks markets.  I’ve been wanting to get here for the longest time, but often Saturday schedules with sport and other Small People commitments make it tricky, so took the opportunity to squeeze in a visit before that all starts up again. But having visited and been very favourably surprised by the variety and quality of produce and the reasonably sized – not too big and not too small in my view – and generally well priced market, I’ll have to find a way to get there again.

There are all sorts of goodies on offer – fresh produce, cheeses, flowers, bakery items, and a few food stands such as Bar Pho and frequently (though not that day) Billy Kwong.  Sonoma was doing a roaring trade with some of the most giant loves of bread I’ve ever seen. There’s a little sign above each stall showing where each business is from.  Some were in striking distance of my house, others from far afield, but all NSW based. There were a few ingredients for recipes I’ve struggled to find in supermarkets and even specialty grocers, but they were all here!

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Flour and Stone are also a regular there. I tried one of their caneles which I adored and will find hard to resist on my next visit.

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Check out other markets I’ve visited in San Francisco, Tel Aviv, and Florence.

Carriageworks Farmers Markets, Saturdays 8am to 1pm,
245 Wilson St, Eveleigh

The Boathouse, Shelly Beach

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The location of this light filled café – right on Shelley Beach – alone make it seductive during a Sydney Summer. Such a great spot to have a coffee, breakfast, and read the paper, alone or while the (not so) Small People busy themselves in the sand and sea.  With the plants, fresh flowers, framed prints and big lampshades, it’s a spot on beachside casual feel, and one that you wish was your own dining or living room to spend all day.

There aren’t any bookings so you do have to hover to get a table (and given the layout of the room this is ok, I found it extremely awkward at the narrow Balmoral Beach location and gave up), but on the couple of occasions I’ve been everyone is pretty chilled and happy to share on mostly larger communal tables.  It’s a counter order system, line up and pay and grab your number, so you do have to line up again each time you want another round of drinks or coffees.  The menu is very compact, so that they can turn the tables and appease the crowds, but the ingredients were fresh and what was there was well done. If it’s a bucket of prawns and some oysters you’re after, you’ll be very happy indeed with the Summer menu appropriately biased towards cold dishes and seafood.  There isn’t a specific kids menu, but they do the various dishes in smaller sizes. Staff were very friendly and quick to follow up when they noticed our meal seemed to be taking longer than usual and set about rectifying it and offering us some free drinks.

We’ll be back for breakfast.

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The Boathouse, 1 Marine Parade, Manly Ph +61 2 9974 5440 http://www.theboathousesb.com.au/

The Boathouse Shelly Beach Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Bromance and a Chinese dinner

Like me, one of my Sorelle also has two boys.  The bromance between her two and my Small People is a strong one; I often joke that we should park the four of them in an apartment and just pop in to visit once a week.  When the school holidays come around there is avid pestering by all parties to spend days and nights together.  So on the first Monday of these school holidays they were re-united, the joy on the occurrence giving the impression that they had not seen each other for months rather than weeks.

For dinner, my Sorella, who spoils them, took them all out for Chinese.   One of my Small People penned a review, which he insisted that I post.  I don’t think Terry Durack or Jonathan Lethlean are at risk just yet.

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On a Monday night, we all had different thoughts of which restaurant to eat at. The choices were Italian, Chinese or the Hunters Hill hotel bistro. The Italian restaurant was closed so there was two choices and by a unanimous agreement, we voted to go to Chinese.

The restaurant was called Grand View Restaurant and it was called Grand View for a reason. The view from our position was very exotic as we saw the sunset.

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Once we were seated, we chose what to eat. We ordered prawn dumplings, 2 servings of dim sims, fried rice, chicken chow mein and sizzling beef.
On arrival, we were given prawn crackers. They were peculiar, they looked funny, they were light pink and we all described them as “a crispy, hardened texture”. I though they tasted like fish, and I decided it was best to save some space to eat all the rest of my meals. My brother had the same opinion as me. On the other hand, Josh and Max really liked them as an appetiser

The prawn dumplings came first. They were definitely the dish of the night for me. It was interesting to see how Josh and Max would like them as they had never eaten them before. We had mixed opinions about the dumplings. I loved them both taste and texture. Josh said, “I liked the texture but not the taste”. My brother said, “These were the best prawn dumplings I have had” and Max said “the dumplings tasted really good

grandview2Not long after, the pork dim sims were served. This was my first time eating them and all of us thought they looked like brains. We all seemed to like them even if they did look like brains. Josh and Max liked them with soy sauce whereas my brother and I though they tasted good in their original formgrandview3

Although we gorged on the dumplings, we still had enough room to eat the fried rice. My brother and I split the rice in half. The fried rice was definitely a highlight of the night for me. The flavours were well balanced and it was very easy to eatgrandview4

The chicken chow mein was served a while after the fried rice. I didn’t order it, but I was lucky enough to try some of Josh’s chicken chow mein. The chicken was cooked in an unusual way, with a slimy texture. It tasted good own its own but was better when mixed with the noodles and other componentsgrandview5

The final dish of the night was the sizzling steak. It looked very appealing with its sizzling effect, this made us satisfied. I thought there was too much marination, which took away the flavour of the meat. I thought it wasn’t my kind of thing to eat. Even with all the setbacks, I thought it was well presented and with less marinating, it would be bettergrandview6

Overall, I thought the restaurant did a very good job. I rate it an 8/10. I liked all the dishes and I should come back some time soon.

Flour Eggs Water, Tramsheds Harold Park

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The folk from A Tavola know their pasta and do it well, and they’ve expanded the family with the opening of Flour Eggs Water at the recently redeveloped Tramsheds precinct.  It’s a long narrow space where you can sit at a bench or on a communal table, and where you’ll be warmly welcomed by the staff, as I was on both my visits.   It isn’t an overly long menu, but one that changes regularly depending on what’s seasonal, and you’ll recognise a few favourites from the original A Tavola in Darlinghurst.  The menu is a little bit of a meander through Italy, as you’ll see a bit of Sicily, a bit of Sardinia, and some Calabria and Piedmonte thrown in for good measure.

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Start off with some beautiful San Daniele prosciutto and a hunk of buffalo mozzarella. It was gone in seconds.   They also give you some house focaccia which is so light and airy, but we ate it too quickly to take a picture of it!

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We tried the cuttlefish with fregola and pane carasau (there’s your Sardinia) with watermelon and mint. The latter ingredients added beautiful freshness and the cuttlefish was well cooked, but I did find the dish a little dry, it needed more of a dressing.

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On the other hand the beef tartare is a bit too saucy and acidic and the beef is a bit lost.  Excellent crunchy slivers of bread served with it though.

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But then the pasta arrives and shines.  Even Mamma Rosa gives it a tick of approval, so it must be good.

The malloreddus with pork and porcini is fragrant and rich and just gorgeous.  It’s a very generous serve too.

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Vegetarians will be absolutely delighted with the agnolotti dal plin (there’s your Piedmonte), with eggplant, scamorza, ricotta, salata.  The problem is it is so delicious the non vegetarians will want to steal it.

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Crab fans will enjoy the mezzelune with crab, ricotta and asparagus.  They come in a bit of a bisque.  One of my sorelle finds it a bit too fishy but I enjoy it.

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I also rate the chittara al nero di sepia with prawns, basil and pistachio (hello Sicily).  Chittara means “guitar”, the pasta being so named as it is traditionally made using a tool with strings, like a guitar. Lovely flavour combination, must try and make this at home.

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The pappardelle with lamb is one of their signatures.  The pasta is silky smooth. I do like lamb, but not in ragu form, so this wasn’t a favourite for me.

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Accompany your pasta with a refreshing salad.  Loved the red cabbage salad with raisins and walnuts.

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Otherwise there’s radicchio with witlof with fennel, orange mint and lemon.

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If you have room for dessert, there’s a few A Tavola favourites.

There’s the tiramisu, which in taste reminds me very much of my version.

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Or the cremino al cioccolato (from the original Darlinghurst venue), which looks like a cappuccino but isn’t.

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If you’re too full but just want a little sweet, try a cannolo.  It’s pretty good with a crunchy casing, but there are others that I prefer.

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Overall, its a lovely spot for a casual Italian meal, one you can easily drift to regularly.  Tutti a tavola!

Flour, Eggs, Water, Tramsheds Harold Park
Ph (02) 9188 7438
http://www.tramshedsharoldpark.com.au

Flour Eggs Water By A Tavola Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato