#LocalFoodieFriday: At The Italian Table
Let’s be real here for a second: I’m a frugal guy. My husband gets annoyed at my penny-pinching ways, and I admit that it can get a little ridiculous. I’m not a serial couponer, but I will drive between three different stores to get the best price on all of my groceries if I need to. In the interest of paying of credit card debt and keeping a safety net for myself, I don’t really like to splurge and treat myself.
So, you can imagine that it’s a real treat when someone else takes it on themselves to give me a gift or experience that I would never give myself! Last year, my husband gave me such a treat for my birthday: a cooking class at a local Italian restaurant, At The Italian Table. It was such a nice surprise, and since I’m a meticulous planner, that’s exactly what I needed to shake up the start to my 24th year.
At The Italian Table is a restaurant that takes many by surprise. Located in a small, unassuming cottage on Frankfort Avenue, this 20-seat establishment is the brainchild of chef Gina Stipo. After owning a cooking school in Tuscany for 13 years, Chef Gina returned to the US and opened her restaurant to give Louisville a taste of what authentic Italian cuisine really is. Every meal is seasonal, to ensure that it is prepared with only the freshest ingredients. And while you can certainly book a table any day of the week to simply eat and enjoy, the real fun comes on Tuesday nights, when At The Italian Table brings back a little piece of Chef Gina’s Italian cooking school.
When we arrived at the restaurant, we started off by choosing a bottle of wine. Resident sommelier Steven was there to help steer us in the right direction, and suggested a full-bodied red to accompany the red pepper sauce that we were going to make later. Knowing next to nothing about wine ourselves, we trusted him implicitly and were not lead astray. In fact, even my husband swore that it was one of the best wines that he had ever had, despite not being a fan of reds. Once all the participants had arrived, the real fun began.
Chef Gina has passed the honor of teaching the classes to Angelina La Rosa, a graduate of Sullivan University’s culinary program who has been cooking with her since the restaurant opened in 2015. If the name La Rosa sounds familiar, you’re probably from Northern Kentucky – and yes, it is the same La Rosa as the pizza place. While she is the granddaughter of the founder, she’s moved down to Louisville to start doing her own thing, and her passion for food is clear. She started us off by showing us the plan for the night: we would be making an antipasto bread salad, followed by a roasted red pepper sauce and the pasta it would go with. Finally, we would finish with an apricot tart in a shortcrust pastry shell.
Throughout the night, Angelina was so patient and kind when she was teaching us how to correctly chop basil or roll fresh pasta dough. I learned so many techniques, and she made it all seem so easy. I am normally terrified by shortcrust pastry because it’s so easy to overwork, but I had no fear when she walked us through making it for the apricot tart we made for dessert.
At the end of the cooking portion of the night, we enjoyed our meal in the restaurant’s cozy dining space. Wine was poured, conversation flowed freely among people that had been strangers just an hour ago, and the fruits of our labor were shared. If you can, I recommend taking a class during a time of year when it gets dark outside early; the lamplight throws a warming glow across the room, and you’ll forget that you’re not at Nonna’s house with people you grew up with surrounding you. Bonus hygge points if it’s snowing.
At the Italian Table is a fine-dining experience that feels like a slice of home. The food is authentic, the lessons are informative, and the company is welcome. I would absolutely recommend making a reservation, and doing it as soon as possible. Spots fill up quickly, and the menu changes seasonally to make sure the experience is as fresh as can be. To make a reservation or check out past menus to know what to expect, visit their website here. They can even accommodate most food allergies or dietary preferences – depending on the rarity of the condition, you may have to round up enough people to make sure the spots are filled up, but they are willing to be flexible and work with you. Treat yourself with something worth having, and learn something new! I’ll see you soon At the Italian Table.