Ava (AH-va) which roughly translates from Italian as "Breath of Life"
This month’s pick for our dining out group began as an enigma to me but like any other ‘pick’ our group designates, the mandate is to give it a try and keep an open mind. My problem was in figuring out the online menu, the first thing we all do when an ‘escape’ is announced. The menu offered a challenge to my culinary vocabulary. But our waitress was not only adorably costumed in a skeleton leotard for Halloween, she was professional, attentive and very knowledgeable about the menu. So here’s what I learned. Nduja is a spicy pork sausage. Sugo is any type of tomato sauce. And fregola is pasta that is a close relative to couscous.
A few of us ordered the diet friendly special Grouper over seasonal vegetables and it was quite delicious. I paired mine with a lovely glass of Chianti. Cheryl indulged in a Veal Chop served over celery root puree and declared it to be top notch. It should be noted that the bone went home in a doggie bag with an eye toward making some fabulous soup. I loved that idea! Ray’s Pasta tasted as good as it looked. And Hollie’s Scallops were big and tender and perfect. Hubby opted for the Sirloin over seasonal vegetables and he quite enjoyed it.
It figures that on a night when I was resolved not to eat any bread I was faced with this incredibly tempting sight. This custom made Acunto -brand wood burning pizza oven was imported from Italy to churn out the magnificent loaves you see here. It's a beautiful element in the dining room, a hearth that welcomes you into their home.
Principal owner Michael Stewart, who grew up in South Tampa also owns the restaurant 717 South directly across the street from Ava on S. Howard Avenue. One of his partners is former Tampa Bay Rays player Joe Maddon who has always had a passion for restaurants and wines, and had a hand in developing the wine list and some very interesting cocktails. While the interior is lovely, I must say we had a bit of a problem finding the restaurant because there is only a little sign above the corner entry that you could easily miss if you were traveling south from Swann. We were seated in a back room that featured an awesome barn door that could close it off for a private party.
And just for fun, check out these nifty one handed salt and pepper shakers. We gals were so taken by them that we immediately whipped out our iPhones to find where to buy them. I got mine via amazon.com for about $26 and they’re due to arrive this week…can’t wait.
We all left the restaurant satisfied with the total experience and headed over to Kathy & Ray's for dessert and coffee, the nicest way to end the evening with good friends.