Tavolino (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

Exploring the Lunch Menu at Tavolino Ristorante Italiano

December 28, 2023
By Matt Sterner

20 years ago, Massimo Tenino introduced Tavolino Ristorante Italiano to Tucsonans, delivering the charm of an intimate neighborhood trattoria reminiscent of family gatherings.

Fresh pasta is made daily, the wood-fired oven cranks out belly-warming pizzas, handcrafted cocktails are made with fresh ingredients, and the wine list is curated from Massimo’s brother’s winery — Azienda Agricola Pietro Rinaldi in Italy. If you’re not too familiar with wine but curious, Tavolino’s servers are well-trained and will help you find the perfect combo.

a dining room table
Dining room at Tavolino (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

This is the dinner service most are aware of while dining at the restaurant, but it’s also an identical experience during lunch. Their menu is diverse, offering a mix of inventive and traditional Italian dishes, and the portions and the prices make Tavolino a solid option for an upscale lunch outing.

In other words, Tavolino’s lunch menu (11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Thursday – Sunday) includes a spectrum of choices, spanning from antipasti to pasta, pizzas, entrees, and desserts. The servings are generous and each dish is presented with artistic flair, and you even get complimentary bread and oil to begin your meal.

For one, the Costine is by far one of my favorite sandwiches in town.

Braised pulled beef short rib with smoked mozzarella, pickled onions, tomatoes, arugula, and a spicy calabrese chile aioli. The bread is baked in the same wood-fired oven the pizzas are created in and the sandwich is paired with either a salad or truffle fries.

a close up of a sandwich on a plate
Costine at Tavolino (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

On the “Wood-Fired Oven” section of the menu, there are three pizzas to choose from and then three entrees including the Bistecca Tagliata — grilled New York strip, grilled asparagus, shaved Parmigiano, paired with truffle and sea salt French fries.

The pasta, though. As mentioned earlier, it’s made fresh daily and it’s apparent. As Rita Connelly once said, it’s “tender and toothsome, one wonders how they can create such perfect pasta.”

The lunch menu offers seven homemade kinds of pasta: lasagna, tagliatelle, penne, tortelloni, ravioli, pappardelle, and fettuccine. One of the highlights is the Ravioli al Caprino — vibrant red beet-infused pasta that’s filled with goat cheese and mascarpone. It’s also served with brown butter, sage, and just the right amount of tomato sauce.

The little pockets of goodness are a treasure and didn’t stick around very long. Luckily, we snapped a photo of it before digging in.

a plate of food with stew
Ravioli al Caprino at Tavolino (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

Tavolino’s Lunch Menu

  • Caprese Burrata – burrata, tomato, basil-infused olive oil, arugula
  • Bresaola – thin-sliced beef bresaola, arugula, goat cheese, shaved Parmigiano with lemon and Tuscan olive oil vinaigrette
  • Bruschetta Pomodoro – grilled housemade focaccia, tomato, basil garlic
  • Vitello Tonnato – thin-sliced veal roast, tuna caper, and anchovy sauce
  • Frittura – fried calamari, lemon aioli, and spicy arrabiata sauce
  • Antipasto Misto for Two – assorted cured meats, roasted bell peppers, eggplants, olives, mushrooms, and fried artichokes
  • Parmigiana di Zucchine – layers of zucchini, smoked mozzarella, Parmigiano, basil, and tomato sauce, baked in the wood-fired oven
  • Cavoletti di Brussel – wood-fired Brussel sprouts, spicy salami, calabrese chili with Modena balsamic reduction
a plate of food on a table
Frittura (fried calamari) at Tavolino (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)
  • Anatra – pan-seared maple leaf duck breast, mixed greens, goat cheese, cranberries, walnuts, apples, and honey mustard vinaigrette
  • Nizza – grilled New Zealand king salmon, mixed greens, red potatoes, green beans, olives, capers, egg, tomato, and balsamic vinaigrette
  • Mista – mixed greens with sliced tomato and balsamic vinaigrette
  • Grilled Seafood Salad – Sonora white shrimp, octopus, baby arugula, red endive, kalamata olives, potatoes, shaved mushrooms, and lemon vinaigrette
  • Rotisserie Insalata di Pollo – shredded chicken, romaine, radicchio, cranberries, candied walnuts, green apples, celery, gorgonzola cheese, and white wine vinaigrette
  • Insalata Tavolino – romaine, radicchio, croutons, Parmigiano, and white wine vinaigrette
  • Costine – braised pulled beef short rib, smoked mozzarella, pickled onions, sliced tomato, arugula, and spicy calabrese chile aioli
  • Vegetariano – grilled mushrooms, roasted bell peppers, eggplant, artichoke hearts, olive tapenade, provolone, salsa verde, and garlic aioli
  • Portofino – 24-month aged prosciutto di parma, mozzarella, tomato, basil, arugula, Tuscan olive oil
  • Classic New Orleans Muffuletta – salami, capicola, mortadella, provolone cheese, olive tapenade, giardiniera, and mushrooms
  • Lasagna al Forno – layers of handmade pasta, beef ragu, bechamel, and mozzarella
  • Penne alla Boscaiola – Italian sausage, mushrooms, and tomato cream sauce
  • Tagliatelle al Pollo Marsala – chicken breast, crispy pancetta, mushrooms, garlic in white wine, and marsala cream sauce
  • Tortelloni Pomodoro – tortelloni filled with spinach and ricotta, served with basil and tomato sauce
  • Ravioli al Caprino – red beet-infused pasta that’s filled with goat cheese and mascarpone
  • Pappardelle al Pesto e Fagiolini – pappardelle wide pasta, basil, green beans, Parmigiano
  • Fettuccine al Salmone – New Zealand king salmon, capers, olives, artichoke hearts, white wine garlic sauce
Wood-Fired Oven Pizzas
  • Salamino Piccante – spicy calabrese salami, mozzarella, parmesan, and tomato sauce
  • Boscaiola – Italian sausage, mushrooms, mozzarella, red onions, Parmigiano, and basil
  • Margherita – mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce
a close up of a slice of pizza on a plate
Margherita pizza at Tavolino (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)
Wood-Fired Oven Entress
  • Costine di Manzo – braised boneless beef ribs, balsamic, baby onions, broccolini, crispy gnocchi, and red wine reduction sauce
  • Melanzana alla Parmigiana – eggplant Parmigiana, baked layers of eggplants, Parmigiano, mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil
  • Bistecca Tagliata – grilled New York strip, grilled asparagus, shaved Parmigiano, and truffle and sea salt fries
Handcrafted Cocktails
  • Song of Sicili – rum, Averna, demerara, orange bitters
  • Tucson Heat – mezcal, chile pasilla mix, alchemist ginger, lemon, demerara, bitters
  • Aviation – gin, creme de noyaux, creme de violet, lemon
  • Last Word – gin, maraschino liqueur, centum herbs, lime
  • Piedmont Spritz – gin, chiot amaro, soda water
  • Red Velvet – scotch, dolin blanc, lemon, orange bitters, cranberry juice
a sandwich sitting on top of a table
Lunch menu at Tavolino (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

Interested in learning Italian?

If you’re in the mood to learn Italian, the restaurant hosts Tucson Italian classes on Thursdays and Fridays and taught by Dr. Theresa Levy, Ph.D. Plus, the classes include lunch.

Levy, with over 35 years of experience, imparted her knowledge of Italian at the University of Arizona and Pima Community College. Hailing from Tucson, she completed her Ph.D. in Language, Reading, Culture, and Anthropology at the University. During her time in Italy, Levy lived for several years, contributing her translation skills for the Vatican.

There are two Tucson Italian class levels available: “No Experience Necessary” and “Non-Beginners.” The beginner sessions utilize handouts crafted by Levy over her extensive teaching career, covering everything from basic vocabulary to grammar and usage. Levy employs a whiteboard to enhance the learning experience, creating a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.

Tucson Italian classes at Tavolino (Photo by Taylor Noel Photography)

Read our January 2023 article, “Tucson Italian: Learning the Language While Embracing the Cuisine of Tavolino.” Tavolino Ristorante Italiano is located at 2890 E. Skyline Dr. and lunch is available 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Thursday – Sunday. For more information, visit tavolinoristorante.com.

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