“We only cook with salt from Sicily” Alessio tells me proudly “even though it costs five times the price!” and that’s when it dawns on us just how serious he is about the details that make a difference, and possibly a few more besides.
The home may have changed, from Reddish to New Mills, a pretty little town on the edge of the Peak District, but the modus operandi for A Tavola is stubbornly intact. If it ain’t authentically Sicilian, it ain’t getting anywhere near the menu.
We begin with cocktails and snacks, first the street food favourite Panelli, crispy fried chickpea fritters, served up simply with lemon wedges and a dusting of that rarefied salt.
Our drinks are provided by Birra Baladin, an Italian producer making some fantastic craft brews including Beer Americano, a delicious sparkling aperitif comprising vermouth, bitters and their very own lager, Baladin 4.8. If you like a Negroni you need to try wetting your whistle with one of these.
Next we opt for Sarde Beccafico, succulent baked sardines stuffed with a fragrant filling of saffron, breadcrumbs, pine kernels and raisins. “It doesn’t get much more Sicilian than that” co-owner Nicky tells us, clearly pleased with the selection. The other half of operations is clearly as passionate about produce and recipes as her head-chef and partner Alessio.
Perhaps things can get even more traditional though – we tuck in to homemade Arancini – the risotto rice balls are a serious affair on the island. But whether you call them Arancina (Palermo) or Arancino (Catania) there are no arguments over how good these ones are. The Wild Boar Ragu and Mozzarella filling bursts and oozes. We swoon and smugly dive in.
Between courses we’re treated to an experiment of sorts, a sweet and savoury olive oil gelato and locally-sourced sourdough for spreading. It provides the perfect palate cleanser and will surely make the main menu soon.
One of our main courses is also from the daily specials, and when we delve deeper it’s easy to see why the dish might only make a seasonal appearance.
Tender Breast Fillet of Duck in a sticky, lightly spiced fig sauce made using a fruit conserve produced back home by Alessio’s sister-in-law. It’s the pretty sort of thing that wins admiring glances as it’s lowered down on to the dining table, thankfully we’re sharing everything we order, otherwise there could have been arguments.
We also treat ourselves to fresh pasta Di Bronte, with crab meat, dill and a creamy pistacchio sauce (Sicilian of course). Devouring that steaming, hearty plateful serves as a timely reminder that we’ve spent the last couple of hours wandering through the grassy, windy wilderness around New Mills, and not lazily people watching on a sun-drenched piazza in Palermo.
Still we can’t mark them down for the weather now can we, and in truth it’s easy to forget quite where you are when surrounded by beautifully painted Moorish ceramic heads, perched alongside Grandma’s antique plastic gelato machine, both taking pride of place on a nearby window sill.
If there’s any space left, a sharer of desserts will give you the chance to taste Tiramisù a Tavola, an interpretation of the classic dish with pistachio Mascarpone cream, as well as a selection of freshly fried and filled Cannolo, cute little Choux Buns and Fruity, Cream-Filled Tarts.
Those less greedy amongst us might just opt for a cool glass of Lemon Granita instead, but then if you’re not indulging, you’re probably not doing Sicilian food right.
Take the train or drive, take a walk through the peaks first or just head straight here, whatever excuse you need to give yourself to make the trip to A Tavola in New Mills, you won’t forget your day out any time soon.
Tuesday – Thursday – 4–11pm
Friday – Saturday – 1–11pm
Sunday – Monday – Closed
A Tavola, Albion Rd, New Mills, High Peak SK22 3EY