Elegant Italian is a steal at this Virginia-Highland trattoria

Squid ink spaghetti with calamari, Calabrian chiles and Thai basil pesto at La Tavola Trattoria. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

DISH OF THE WEEK: Squid Ink Spaghetti at La Tavola Trattoria

By Henri Hollis

Ordering pasta in a restaurant should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism. Why pay retail prices for something you can boil at home? On the other hand, pasta becomes a must-have and a measuring stick at restaurants that make it in-house - though you're likely to pay a premium for all that extra effort.

La Tavola Trattoria in Virginia-Highland is the rare Italian restaurant that makes pasta on-premise but doesn’t remind you of that fact with the price. The elegant, delicious squid ink spaghetti tastes as exciting as it looks: zippy Thai basil pesto and Calabrian chiles add just the right amount of spice. The dyed-black spaghetti (which is easy to overcook into a chewy mass) is nicely al dente and interwoven with a generous portion of calamari.

Such a sophisticated and well-executed dish is reasonably priced at $18, but at La Tavola, any pasta dish can be served as an appetizer portion for $5 less than the entree price. It would be tough to find a better Italian dish in Atlanta for $13, even without La Tavola’s cozy ambiance and excellent service. The whole package is enough to delight even the most hardened pasta skeptics.

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