Tavolino opened its doors last Wednesday, serving up hearty Italian sandwiches for the King and Bathurst crowd. With Big Smoke Burger and Reggie's on the same block, this strip of King is only a couple ciabatta buns away from being dubbed the sandwich district.
With no signage, this sandwich spot is identifiable by the black vespa parked along the storefront - a bit of Italy before you even walk in the door. The clean and modern interior has steel chairs and tables and the shelves along the walls are lined with mason jars filled with pickles, peppers, olives and sauces. The urban look, the friendly staff and the counter that opens onto the kitchen give Tavolino a vibe similar to the latest trends in pop-up foodtrucks, minus the inconvenience of having to eat on the curb.
It's this same trendy vibe that separates Tavolino from other Toronto favourites like California Sandwiches, which is more of a hole in the wall type of venue. For hefty portions at a great price, California Sandwiches is the place to be, but for those seeking a little more in the way of ambiance and decor, Tavolino is a good choice. But be prepared to spend a little more (sandwiches are $9-$11) for a more modestly sized lunch.
We ask the server what's best and he says the Po' Boy shrimp sandwich is great, but I can't resist the veal sandwich ($10.95) with tomato sauce and fiore di latte mozzarella. It may be a politically incorrect meat, but it happens to be one of my absolute favourites so I order it anyway.
Like all the sandwiches, mine is served on a fresh, white, flower-dusted bun. The filling-to-bun ratio is not great though so I remove the top bun and eat it open faced. The breaded veal cutlet and warm, stretchy cheese are tasty, but I'm not wowed. The tomato sauce was probably the best part of the sandwich, striking a nice balance of salty, sweet and tangy.
The same tomato sauce is poured over our side order of stuffed pepper ($6.95), a red pepper filled with a very simple and rustic risotto, made with beef stock and topped with parmesan cheese shavings. It's a good thing we sprang for the side dish because my friend's dish isn't nearly a full meal.
She opts for a lighter lunch with the root salad ($9.95) that has arugula tossed with turnips, beets, parsnips, goat cheese, spiced walnuts, pomegranate and a balsamic dressing. The price is comparable to the sandwiches but the portion is not even close. No bigger than a side salad, this dish leaves her hungry, even after having a big helping of the stuffed pepper. The salad is tasty, and has an interesting mix of toppings, but interesting flavours can't compensate for an empty belly.
It was a fun lunch and the food was good, but Tavolino may have to step up their game to compete in this sandwich loving town.