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RESTAURANT REVIEW : Tazza Kitchen

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liz gunnBy Liz Gunn || I know some of you are you still reeling from the piece I did on Trenholm Plaza. Well, I returned to Trenholm Plaza recently and got a more in depth look at Tazza Kitchen.

Full disclosure, I’ve eaten at Tazza once before and enjoyed it very much. I wouldn’t dare, however, write a full review on a restaurant during opening week. Now that Tazza has been up and running for a few months I decided to revisit Columbia’s newest hot spot with my girlfriends.

Tazza is located in Trenholm Plaza, where Café Caturra once thrived. The décor and the menu have changed slightly, but the concept is mostly the same. There is currently an open kitchen and two front-and-center wood burning ovens, and the menu now features more regionally sourced ingredients.

We were fortunate enough to have planned our night out when it was the perfect temperature outside. We don’t get that a lot in South Carolina, so when we do – one must take advantage. We sat outside, and I highly recommend that if it’s an option.

We started with some bubbly, naturally. Then I went on to have their happy hour cocktail of the evening, the “Pleasant Surprise”. I’m a sucker for a fancy cocktail menu and this one was an instant classic. It’s made with Hendricks gin, St. Germain, Ransom dry vermouth, cucumber slices & orange bitters. The rest of table went with wine; Tazza has a really great selection of unique wines that you won’t see on every restaurant menu.

As per usual, we ordered a few small plates for the table to share. This was a great choice for my review because I got to sample a little bit of everything. You may not believe me when I tell you this, but my favorite starter was the “Brick Oven Okra”. Even if you’re not a big okra fan, I have a hard time believing any one could not like this dish. It’s smoky, spicy and loaded with garlic. I’ll never be able to eat plain okra again.

We also tried the “Guacamole” which is made fresh and served with large stone-ground corn tostadas. Lastly, we shared the crunchy potato and arugula salad, made with smoked mozzarella, toasted almonds and a maple vinaigrette that is out of this world.

For dinner we ordered a couple of different pizzas and two entrées. The pizzas here are phenomenal, with a light and crispy crust thanks to the wood fired oven. We tried the classic “Margherita” and the “Prosciutto & Arugula”; both were excellent. I’ve also tried the “Vegetable” and the “Spicy Sausage & Black Pepper Honey” pizzas, and I really loved the spicy sweet contrast of the latter, although both were delicious.

The two entrees we tried were the “Fish Tacos” and the “Aqua Pazza”. In this upscale twist on fish tacos they are served on local corn tortillas with tomatillo confit, day pickles, calabrese mayo and crunchy quinoa. The combination of flavors and textures is so good that you’ll keep eating long after you’ve reached the point where you realize you’re full.

The “Aqua Pazza” is the local fresh catch dish on the menu, and the night we were there it was tilefish. It’s served in an agrodolce (Italian sweet and sour) sauce with broccoli rabe, thai chili and fresh herbs. Again, the unexpected combination of flavors will keep you guessing and coming back for more. It’s fresh, earthy, sweet and spicy – everything I love, all in one dish.

If you manage to save room, which I urge you to do, dessert is not to be overlooked. While the dessert menu may appear limited, since there are only three selections to choose from, each one is as delightful as and different from the other. We tried all three, of course, and everyone at the table had a different favorite.

If you’re a chocolate lover, definitely get my favorite – the “Chocolate Budino” – a rich, mousse-like custard flanked with toasted almonds and sea salt flakes. If you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, try the “Queso Fresco Cake”; macerated blackberries, crème fraîche semifreddo, black pepper honey and butter pecans. If you’re looking for something a little less sweet, go with the “Gelato & Cake” – a flourless cake with house made gelato, sea salt caramel and basil.

In addition to serving dinner nightly, beginning at 4:30 p.m., and Sunday brunch starting at 10:30 a.m., Tazza is now open for lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.! Just like the dinner menu, the lunch menu will change subtly with the seasons and the availability of local ingredients. I can’t recommend this place enough! Click here to preview the menu before you go.

Liz Gunn is a wife, mom, travel enthusiast, food snob, daydreamer and lifelong Gamecock fan. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she lives in Columbia, S.C. with her husband and daughter.

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